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Prison chaplaincy

Swedish prisons are administrated by the Swedish prison and probation service (Kriminalvården). All inmates are entitled to pursue their faith or religion and to follow the dictates of that faith while they are in prison, regardless of which particular faith the inmate follows.
Most institutions have a priest from the Swedish Church and a pastor from a free church. At the larger institutions, there may be priests from the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, Muslim imams, lay workers or parish assistants. These usually hold religious services and other meetings. The larger institutions have special chapels or special rooms for worship or for religious meetings. There are roughly 140 priests, pastors and deacons in the Swedish prison service. Their task is to meet the inmates’ needs of private conversation, arrange group meetings and church services, and provide education and guidance in ethical and existential issues. Part of the prison chaplains’ work is to help those in prison to find a representative of their faith and religion.
Each prison has a council for spiritual welfare called Nav. This group is responsible for the spiritual welfare of the inmates, in other words it aims at helping those in prison with, for example, questions about faith and the meaning of life. Nav includes prison chaplains and others. The Christian Council of Sweden (SKR) trains prison chaplains so
that they are specially geared to ministering to the spiritual needs of prisoners. SKR is an ecumenical organization in which nearly all the churches in Sweden are active. On a national level, this work is coordinated by The Christian Council of Sweden (SKR). The Muslim Council of Sweden (SMI) has a similar function within the Islamic faith. In 2002, a declaration of mutual support and exchange between SMI and SKR concerning spiritual care of prisoners was issued.
At the most secure prison for men, Kumla prison, a special division called “the Monastery” opened in 2003. At the Monastery, prisoners can after a special application procedure participate in a silent retreat. It is described thus: “This means that you are given time to contemplate yourself and try to understand who you are. The Monastery is not a course in Christianity, but if you are there, you are allowed to read the Bible, meditate and think. At the Monastery you have the chance to find the courage to stop pretending and to dare to see both yourself and reality clearly. You may apply to attend the Monastery no matter which institution you are serving your sentence at. To attend the Monastery you must be sentenced to a long prison term” (Swedish prison and probation service website 2011-09-02).

D 21 May 2014    APer Pettersson

CNRS Unistra Dres Gsrl

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