Author(s): 

Thomas Mathiesen and Ole Kristian Hjemdal

Since the 1980s prison populations have increased dramatically in most Western countries. Criminology has proposed several approaches to reverse this development, but with only meagre success.

Treatment programmes based on individual explanations of crime conducted inside prisons have not been able to overcome the negative effects of the prison-life; programmes conducted outside prisons have often been supplements and add-ons rather than alternatives; and strategies of incapacitation based on an understanding of social and societal risk factors have often shown themselves to be both repressive and ineffective.

Mere criticism of the prison system, as ineffective and repressive, along with proposals to reduce the number of prisons and decriminalise drug use are important, but not enough to tear down the prison walls and significantly reduce prison populations.

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Thomas Mathiesen, Ole Kristian Hjemdal