How the State Produces Hate: Peter Sunde in Prison (Part 1/2)
The prison sentence from The Pirate Bay trial is not the only punishment that Peter Sunde has to endure. His brother wrote a long public post on Facebook about the treatment of Peter Sunde and how it also affects and punishes people close to him. The words below have been translated from Swedish, with permission from the author. You will have to judge the validity of the claims yourself since it’s hard to verify.
About the correctional facility, Peter Sunde and our father’s illness / please share
I have deliberately said very little about what happened to my brother, Peter Sunde, over the past few months. Partly because he can talk for himself and doesn’t have difficulties making himself heard, despite that he sits in a prison with a high risk classification in Västervik. But the few times prisoners talk about their own difficult situations in prison they are rarely listened to, and what has happened the last few weeks has led to large consequences, even in my life, that I have to say at least something.
A few decades ago there was a consensus about the second part in the term correctional facility [editors note: in Swedish it’s called ‘kriminalvård’ which literally would translate to ‘criminal treatment’]. Emphasize was put on the treatment part, at least in the political discussions. No matter what the person had done, it was not in the interest of society to break the person down. In order to reduce the crime rate there was instead a demand that the inmate was offered help and support to move away from their criminality. The reality was definitely less idealistic, the prisons had major deficiencies even then. Now the flaws have increased through a tightening of penalties (in combination with creative interpretations of rules) from people in charge at the prison system.
Peter has been sitting locked up in Västervik since May. A class-2 correctional facility that aspires to have as high security as the more famous class-1 correctional facilities ‘Kumla’ and ‘Hall’. Västervik is also the correctional facility that most frequently was criticized by the Ombudsman in recent years.
Why Peter has been placed in Västervik is not clear. Already a few days before the verdict against The Pirate Bay was determined he had been assigned a place there. As a public figure he has ended up in a department with inmates that are either high-profile or in need of peace and seperation from the rest of the inmates. Normally you can choose the correctional facility yourself, since it requires a minimum of activity from the inmates placed there. Peter, has not been given a choice and he won’t be able to apply for a transfer anywhere else either.
When he arrived at the prison the security department did a manditory assesment of him. Not surprisingly the result was that he was considered to have a non-existent risk for both violence and escape attempts. The other prisoners still don’t understand why he is there. Several of the guards shake their heads and say the same thing.
At most he should have been placed in an open prison, considering the verdict that took legal effect. In similar cases an ankle monitor would have been the obvious choice. This time, for obscure reasons the prison determined to do exactly the opposite.
Already when he applies for a day-leave the first time, the head of the department shows up in his room with a smile on his face and says: “I have good news for you Peter, your application is rejected”. He continues by making clear that Peter should not hope for any kind of day-leave at all. No hopes of being moved to another correctional facility either. And forget about any hopes of an ankle monitor.
We talk to each other on phone every day. I hear him talk about collective punishments in the form of mandatory urine testing being used as a deterrent. Even though the Chief Legal Counsel for the penitentiary once answered a written question (from Peter) where he stated that urine tests can only be carried out after an individual assesment.
The guards follow orders, they say. Peter “doesn’t understand how it works” at the correctional facility. Even when he pulls out the law book and points at the paragraph, or to criminal law, they shrug their shoulders, they follow their orders.
They do as they’re told.
That is why they can wait outside while a prisoner goes to the bathroom. That is why they can wait until he leaves the bathroom and then say “now it’s time for a urine test”, and thereafter take him to a bare room where he has to undress and pee in front of two guards. “Did you already pee? Tough luck. Then you wait until you can do it again.”
Several things happen. Stuff that can’t be verified since the insight into correctional facilities is missing. I hear about several persons that go to the dentist (the one that gave the lowest bid in the public procurement). How several of the inmates return in worse conditions than when they went there. The dentist pulled the wrong teeth, there’s splinters left in the gums. The guards shrug their shoulders. It’s not their responsibility to make sure that the prisoner – who in addition to being denied painkillers also bleed through all their sheets – have access to emergency dental care. Even though the law states that emergency dental care ought to be just that, administered straight away. Not in six days. Not in a week and a half. These are things to bring up with the ones who decide, the bosses.
The guards are just doing their job.
They do as they’re told.
I hear how the correctional facility intorduced a system that they begin to unlock the doors at seven in the morning and lock away the inmates a quarter to seven in the evening. This means that they are locked up longer than the twelve hours per day that the law permits.
The guards get no overtime pay. They only follow the regulations of the correctional facility.
“You don’t understand how it works in here”.
Anyone pointing out that they are breaking the law is a troublemaker. You are expected to understand that for practical reasons it doesn’t work as it states it should work. That is why the regulated daily hour outside is equal to fifty minutes. That is why he gets to eat mashed potatoes served with boiled potatoes. And hopefully the kitchen stowed away some extra fruit, since he is vegan. They claim that he is served nutritious and good food, despite the fact that he lost thirteen kilos. The doctor has noted several deficiency disorders. Amongst them iron and B12 deficiencies. The problem is that the doctor should not write perscriptions anymore. It became too complicated when he did so. Thus there is nothing wrong with the food.
I hear how they handle criticism from the Ombudsman. How they, as lackeys, change their routines a little until the storm has blown over. What should they do? The Ombudsman has only words and nothing concrete to threaten with. There is no regulatory authority. Therefore the letters keep being read by the security staff, without being cleared with the obligatory stamps that the correctional facility needs to use, especially if they happen to come from persons that the staff in the post-room recognizes by name.
“You don’t understand how it works here” they say. Then he gets rejected for his next day-leave, followed by the next one. There is no logic, no reasoning for the rejections. According to the law a day-leave should be given even to the ones with the highest escape probability.
It is part of the treatment side of prisons, that even prisoners should have the possibility to see family and friends. It’s about the psycho-social health. But now, when the regular boss is on vacation, it seems to go easier. The deputy chief says it can be arranged. There is, as known, no real risk that Peter will escape. No other inmate has such a low escape probability as him.
Not least given that his father is ill.
Not least given that the punishment is relatively short.
Not least given that his father is ill.
Prison managements think differently. Their reasoning goes: There is certainly no risk for him running off. But… if he escapes…
That would lead to a media disaster.
That is why the rejection states that there is – not just a large – but a probable escape risk. That is how it works at the correctional facility.
If you can verify what I say is true? That is unlikely, there is no transparency. No possibility of really viewing what happens inside a Swedish security classed correctional facility. However, there are witnesses. And there are lawyers. And there are opportunities to never let go and give up the fight against a system that is so obviously aimed towards breaking down rather than building up people. But the possibilities are small. Västervik has previously been criticized by the Ombudsman for editing information, erasing notes and not letting the inmates have copies on decisions. They won’t restrict themselves to deny someone a chance to review them, if someone would get such an idea.
Not at all, answers the correctional facility, we follow the rules. We offer the inmates several programs. We offer education for example! Peter got to borrot hew “Spanish for beginners”. He has it on his room now.
This article is in two parts. Part two.
Featured image CC BY-SA Pirate Times
About Josef Ohlsson Collentine
I'm a dual citizen (American/Swede) and try to integrate my reflections from a more global perspective if possible. I'm the organizational leader for Pirate Times and work actively to strengthen the pirate movement through this work as well as being the international contact for Piratpartiet (PPSE). Elected board member of PPSE for 2015-2018. If you would like to ask me something I speak English, Swedish and Spanish. Find me on the links below