This paper identifies aspects of the prison system in Iceland that offer
positive models for Ireland. Although Iceland experienced a similar financial crash to Ireland, Iceland’s penal policies remain very much in tune with Nordic approaches, which have largely resisted the punitive impulses evident in English-speaking countries.
Comparisons between the prison systems of Ireland and Iceland reveal a much lower rate of incarceration, and more socially inclusive attitudes, in the latter. The paper examines, in particular, prison regimes in each country; on most criteria, conditions and the manner of treating people in prison in Iceland are seen to be significantly better than in Ireland. The thinking behind the different policies and practices is explored: concepts such as ‘dynamic security’, ‘balancing care and custody’ and ‘normalisation’ have much greater currency in the prison system of Iceland than in that of Ireland.
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