What's the point of escaping from prison?

47 countries in comparison - Escape from prison: Switzerland leads the European rankings

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What sounds negative is actually positive. Because: "The ranking punishes the good ones," explains a criminology professor.

At first glance, it is not the ranking that a country is striving for: right at the front when it comes to escaping from prison. In no other country on the European continent are more prison inmates fleeing than in Switzerland. This is shown by the space report that the Lausanne criminology professor Marcelo F. Aebi prepared for the Council of Europe. It compares the prison systems of 47 European countries.

Switzerland: 255 prisoners, Spain: 2 prisoners

Specifically: extrapolated to 10,000 prisoners, around 255 prisoners fled in Switzerland in 2017. In other countries there are much fewer: in France around 88 fled for every 10,000 prison inmates. In Germany 61, in Austria 30 and in Spain just 2.

As often as in Switzerland, prisoners piled up in the Scandinavian countries: In Finland there were 252 extrapolated in 2017, in Sweden 238.

"You can't learn freedom in prison"

According to the author of the study, Aebi, the high number of prison escapes is due to the fact that Switzerland - like the Scandinavian countries - relies heavily on open and semi-open prison systems to get people used to freedom at the end of their prison term. “You can't learn freedom in prison,” says Aebi.

“What looks like 'bad news' is actually 'good news'”, emphasizes Aebi. Because: Countries that rely heavily on open enforcement of reintegration usually have the lowest populations of prison inmates. The recidivism rates are also lower in countries with open penal systems, and rehabilitation is more successful.

«Countries that have a very restrictive prison system without an open prison system have an average recidivism rate of around 50 percent in the long term. That means: every second prisoner ends up in prison again a few years after their release. In countries with an open prison system, the recidivism rate among adults - measured in terms of repeated convictions - is 38 percent according to studies, ”says Aebi.

Nowadays, the prison authorities in Switzerland take a very careful look at who they let into the open prison.
Author: Marcelo F. AebiCriminologist

The fact that a prisoner occasionally escapes one way or another on the way to a lower recidivism rate is the price one has to pay in order to have a more humane prison system. "Nowadays, the prison authorities in Switzerland are looking very carefully at who they let into the open prison."

Classic prison breakouts are on the decline

If you take a closer look at the number of escapes from Swiss prisons, you will see that classic prison escapes - i.e. those from closed prisons - are on the decline in Switzerland.

In 2010, 24 prisoners broke out of closed institutions, last year only 6 across Switzerland. The escape from the open prison, however, fluctuates strongly from year to year. In 2012, for example, 250 prisoners fled; in 2017 there were 170.

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  • Comment from Armin Hug (Hugi)
    In Switzerland, even in closed prisons, care is taken to give the inmate the impression that he could flee if he wanted. The various downstream shut-off zones are not visible to the occupant and contribute significantly to improved well-being and behavior. To what extent this system leads to more attempts to break out would be interesting to know.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Commentary by Adrian Flükiger (Ädu)
    Great theme ... - :). The over-bites are once again in their element. Above all, we should introduce draconian penalties for all tax evaders. However, this would not be manageable with the existing prison operations. It would have to be really lousy holes. No matter: the Swiss way is significantly better than what the surrounding countries offer. Share the author's point of view.
    Agree agree to the comment
  • Comment from Anna Niederhauser (AnNi)
    I would have loved to have the term "cuddle justice" explained. Cuddling because the personal space is limited to 12-13m2? ... with the arranged times that are spent in the open air? ... with regard to the lifelong obligation to work?
    We can be annoyed that the Swiss law has re-integration as a principle. This is not possible in closed life - there is a lack of self-determination and its consequences. Imprisonment.
    Well, we "good guys" are free from mistakes.
    Agree agree to the comment

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