In Finland’s Open Prisons, 1)Inmates Have the Keys
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  To find the inmates at Kerava Prison, I walked on a tree-lined path and opened the door to a greenhouse. “We have bunnies here,” says Hannu Kallio, a 2)convicted drug 3)smuggler.
  Hannu: Quite relaxing to be here.
  Every day the 70 inmates here go to work in this greenhouse. On this day they’re potting delicate 4)seedlings, gearing up for a big spring sale.
  Hannu: Every greenhouse is full of flowers.
  This greenhouse is part of an open prison, which means the three guards are nowhere in sight, there are no gates, no locks, no uniforms, and, as a few inmates informed me.
  Prisoner: Yeah, we even have our own keys. Yeah.
  Open prisons have been around in Finland since the 1930s. Back then they were more like labor colonies. These days, they’re the last step of a prison sentence. It’s where inmates prove they’re ready to 5)transition back to regular life. And it’s not just for non-violent 6)offenders. Marcus, Hannu, Enyuha. Their crimes range from drug offences to murder, and their sentences from one year to life. They’ve all spent time in regular prisons. They all had to apply to come here. They pay rent to the prison, they also pay taxes and have cellphones. They go home for the holidays. They even do their grocery shopping in town.
  I have to admit I was kind of surprised to learn that people convicted of murder can do their time in a gateless prison a few bus stops from a residential neighborhood. But the locals don’t seem to mind. In fact, they were confused when I asked if they were concerned about sharing the town with prisoners. Some told me that the prisoners improve the community by restoring historic sites and cleaning up public spaces. Not every prisoner’s a candidate though.
  Tapio Lappi-Sepp?l? (Head of the Institute of Criminology, University of Helsinki): Let’s be clear that we have high risk, violent, repeat offenders―every country has them―and they are not working in open prison.
  But over a third of Finland’s entire prison population lives in open facilities, and the system seems to work here. A few decades ago the country had one of the highest 7)incarceration rates on the continent. Now it has one of the lowest.
  They’re in some unlikely places, too. Helsinki’s No. 1 tourist attraction, 8)Suomenlinna Island, is home to an open prison.   Jukka Tiihonen spent a few years on the island completing a sentence for murder. Before he came here, Jukka spent seven years in a traditional closed facility. He says, on his first day here in open prison, he was assigned to work on fixing some old walls. He found himself in an odd situation, with an axe in one hand, a knife in the other, and tourists everywhere.
  Jukka: I know, it was very strange.
  But Tiihonen says, after a few months here, he started to feel different.
  Jukka: Maybe start to feel like a normal people [sic], not a prisoner anymore, who will tell you off.
  He applied to study at a university in town. A few months later he was hopping on the ferry to Helsinki every day to study for a master’s degree in Spanish. When Jukka finished his sentence in 2013, he says the transition to regular life wasn’t that noticeable.
  He now works for an NGO that helps recentlyreleased prisoners find housing.
  Jukka: I want to go…do what normal people do.


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