September 26th, 2013
02:42 PM ET

What I'm reading: Scandinavia's superior prisons?

By Fareed Zakaria

“As India’s most dynamic states post rapid and sustainable growth rates, the country is rediscovering its natural fabric as a nation of strong regions. States still growing at or near double-digit rates represent India’s secret weapon for competing with the other major emerging markets, from China to Brazil, Indonesia to Mexico,” writes Ruchir Sharma in Foreign Affairs.

“The only hitch is that despite the chief ministers’ high popularity in their home states, many of them are pushing rapid development with an autocrat’s haste. Nevertheless, if India is to come back as a success story among the emerging markets, New Delhi should find ways to encourage the rise of its breakout states and the spread of their success to India’s other states.”

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“It isn’t clear to me why China’s economy must deteriorate next year,” writes Jim O’Neill on Bloomberg. “China’s slowdown to its current 7.5 percent growth rate was well signposted by a sharp slowdown in leading indicators. Those measures, including monetary growth and electricity usage, are no longer flashing red. Coincident indicators such as the monthly purchasing managers’ index have picked up. Unless you believe that China is somehow doomed to fail, these signs are encouraging. They suggest that the rest of this year and the first part of 2014 might see slightly stronger growth.”

“The more resourceful pessimists next argue that the better growth signals are coming from parts of the economy where growth is unsustainable - such as the urban housing market and government-directed investment - from excessive growth of credit extended by shadow banks, and not from a broadly based expansion of consumer spending. If this were clearly the case, I’d be a pessimist, too, because a buoyant China needs consumers to take the lead.”

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“Scandinavian prisons are roughly as racially and ethnically homogeneous as American prisons: 70 percent of Nordic prisoners are ethnically white citizens; the other 30 percent are foreign-born (mostly from other EU countries),” writes Doran Larson in The Atlantic, arguing that Scandinavian prisons are better than American ones.

“In U.S. prisons, ethnic and racial minorities make up over 60 percent of the population. The difference is that the majority of Scandinavian prisoners look like the majority—including the voting majority—outside.  Laws, enforcement policies, and prison practices are those that the majority of citizens assume would work for themselves. Whatever other differences may exist between law-abiding families and people convicted of crimes, the prison system itself does not seek to widen the social distance between them.”

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Topics: China • India • What we're reading

soundoff (One Response)
  1. Gene Black

    Sunday 5 Apr 15: Assume the showing of a comparison between US American prison activity and that of a Scandinavian country was a repeat. So I repeat my question. Why was Canada not even mentioned even though it has a similar criminal justice system to that of your comparison group? Not only does Canada have a quasi-similar culture to its southern neighbours, it has a correctional program that better matches the Scandinavian reference group that the U.S. American prison system. In fact it is hard to keep up with the revolving door of Correctional Services Canada with many sentences two yrs to three years. Few will spend natural life in jail. When I worked for CSC Life with the possibility of parole in 25 years was the max sentence. Still sentences are far less than the US for similar offences.

    April 11, 2015 at 8:55 am | Reply

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