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“Room With a View: An ‘Open’ Prison in the Swiss Alps.”

Harman, Alan
June 4, 2015

Source: (2001) Corrections Technology and Management. 5(2):32-36.

Strafansalt Saxerriet is Switzerland’s only “open” prison. There are no walls; and inmates, sentenced for offenses that range from drunk driving to murder, wear their own clothes and work under the supervision of unarmed prison staff. The all-male prison has a capacity of 118 inmates and usually operates at or near this capacity. After conviction, an offender undergoes a selection process. There is an authorized staff limit of 90, but the facility usually operates with 46 full-time and 35 part-time staff. Just 15 of the staff are in security positions. The rest include social workers, instructors, and specialist supervisors. The facility operates as a business with two divisions, industrial and agricultural. The facility competes for contracts on the basis of quality rather than pricing. Prices are commensurate with those of outside competing businesses. Outside businesses view the prison operation as just another business competitor. Inmate pay is based on productivity. After inmates enter Saxerriet, they are assigned to a work post and can become qualified or obtain apprenticeships in such skills as printing and book binding, metal work, mechanics, computer-aided design, butcher, and operating equipment that ranges from a fork lift to heavy machinery. Several months before an inmate leaves the prison, he is allowed to work outside, but must return to the prison at night. Although the recidivism rate for all of Switzerland is 60 percent, the rate for Saxerriet is 40 percent, the lowest in the country.


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