An essay by Professor of English and Creative Writing Doran Larson has been published in The Atlantic Monthly online. In “Why Scandinavian Prisons are Superior,” Larson contends that “open” prisons, in which detainees are allowed to live like regular citizens, should be a model for the U.S.
Larson writes, “After six years of teaching as a volunteer inside American prisons, I’ve come from the private college where I work to investigate the Scandinavian reputation for humane prisons. It’s the end of my twelfth prison tour, and I consider the semantics of the question: If you can’t tell whether you’re in a prison, can it be a prison? I’ve never considered this in so many words. Yet I find that I know the answer, having felt it inside a prison cell in Denmark: There is no punishment so effective as punishment that nowhere announces the intention to punish.”
Larson teaches courses in prison writing and since November of 2006, he has taught a creative writing course inside a maximum-security state prison. His essays on prison writing and prison issues have been published in College Literature, Radical Teacher, English Language Notes and The Chronicle of Higher Education. He is the editor of the forthcoming Fourth City: Essays From the Prison in America.