Once when I was at the airport coming into the United States the man at the passport control asked me what I did for a living.
“I work for the department of corrections.”
“Do they have criminals in Sweden like they do here?” he asked.
“Yes. People kill each other there too.” I replied.
When most people think of Sweden they think of the northern lights or the never-ending days of summer, but they never think of what lies under the surface. Locked away in cells, and especially what is going on inside those walls.
Single room cells with a mattress, desk, private toilet, and shelves to hold ones belongings are where inmates sit. They have access to a gym, to showers, the ability to wear their own private clothes, receive food cooked in an internal kitchen, and in most cases a television in their rooms.
Although some of the inmates do not have it as easily as others, they have a phenomenon called “restrictions” which is something the prosecutor can apply to inmates who cannot have contact with other inmates because it can impede their investigation.
“They talk to each other all night long, if the district attorney only knew how often their restrictions were broken…” said one worker.
Twenty-three hours alone in a cell, no contact with the outside world. Something that has received critique from both the United Nations and the European Union and often compared to torture.
In a little jail somewhere in Sweden, it has the hidden name “The House That God Has Forgotten”. Not because of how the inmates live inside of it, but for instead how the staff is treated and goes through there every day.
“When was the last time the leadership worked as a prison guard? Have they ever worked as one?. “
A day in jail is a lot of running around and has little job satisfaction. Being told by the head office to “break the evil cycle” is a focus that is usually thrown to the side and is replaced by running back and forth to gyms, showers and dealing out twenty-four cardboard boxes of food to inmates. and to see to that all inmates have the right to their daily promenade of one hour or thrity minutes. This is how inmates are defined as breaking isolation, and this is how the staff have an extreme amount of pressure put on them.
The leadership has little understanding of what a corrections officer goes through every day because they are rarely out on the floor helping their staff with the day to day tasks, or they are in meetings every day.
A good portion of leadership has been placed at the jail from outside the department of corrections, has come from the probation side of the department (which has litte or no understanding of how a jail works), or has not seen the inside of a cell in the past ten years.
With leadership out of touch with the daily operations of what happens on a floor, they have little or no understanding of the inmates and how they behave in the prison.
Inmates destroy televisions by throwing them (which they receive a new one free of charge eventually.) There is a constant threat of violence or violence between staff and inmates, and there are also many inmates that have a hard time coping with being in jail at all.
“If I destroy my television at home, does a new one come down from the sky to replace it?” said a worker at the jail “If taxpayers only knew what their money is going to.”
The few times they are on the floor it is not to understand how things work on their floor, take calls from inmates or deal out those twenty-four food boxes, but to instead make an appearance and say “hello” and leave.
It is also rarely if ever that an officer receives praise or appreciation for the work they are doing, but instead is called into the office for negative conversations or “interrogations.”
“More than once I have been called into an office without the understanding that I might need someone from the union, or a witness.” said a worker.
“From now, all towels that are sent to the cleaners must be dry.”
With little or no understanding from the leadership the day to day workings of the jail is compromised.
“They understand little about how a floor works, and instead have focus on things that have little to do with what is important, but instead on how to save a few kronor here and there.”
Budget cuts are something that plagues the department, but instead of going out over the leadership, they are instead set on the shoulders of employees.
“This year we will not be receiving a Christmas present because the head of the government says we understand the stressful economic position the government is in right now,” a worker says while laughing
“I wonder who said that? They probably asked all the people at the head office that make double what we make.” another answered.
Last year there was not even a Christmas Lunch, but an invitation to lunch with drinks and fine dining was posted on the intranet for all of the leadership in the organization.
That got eventually printed out and hung up on a wall somewhere.
Employees learn interesting things from the warden every month in their monthly newsletter. How to not eat inmates food (which will be thrown in the trash otherwise), that there will actually be a Christmas lunch (after an almost riot last year from the staff), and how a saint Lucia train will go through the jail and visit the inmates.
Nothing ever about the needs and wants of the staff. How they have leadership that is not present on the floors, how the employees must work nonstop all day or how time is not being spent on topics that are more important than the ones mentioned above.
Leadership is supposed to be an example for its employees. It is a good thing that the employees do not often follow their example, otherwise, the jail would stop working and the only thing the inmates would receive is a “hello” in the morning while walking the corridors.