ABSTRACT

In the growing field of comparative criminal justice, the Nordic countries are regularly used as exceptions. As the story goes, Nordic societies somehow seem to resist the global move towards growing rates of imprisonment and tougher, less welfare-oriented crime-control policies (e.g. Cavadino and Dignan 2006; Lacey 2008; cf. Garland 2001). In an award-winning two-part article in the British Journal of Criminology, New Zealand-based criminologist John Pratt (2008a, b) describes the Nordic countries as exhibiting a specifically Nordic ‘culture of control’, resulting in what he calls ‘Scandinavian exceptionalism’ in the penal area; consistently low rates of imprisonment and comparatively humane prison conditions. The Scandinavian or Nordic1 countries have taken over as the preferred ‘beacon of tolerance’ in a world moving steadfastly towards the dusk of everincreasing levels of punitiveness (Nelken 2009).