More criminals making amends

2:20 min

A programme for helping convicted criminals reconcile with their families and the victim of their crimes is spreading across Sweden’s high-security prisons, with double the amount of visits booked in 2017 compared to previous years.

The programme is run by a non-profit in Malmö called Försoningsgruppen, or “the reconciliation group” in English. This year, they have had twice as many prison visits booked compared to previous years, Swedish Radio’s local news in Malmö reports.

Peter is one of those who have taken part in the programme. While serving a prison sentence, he saw a poster for Försoningsgruppen, and decided he was ready to get back in touch with his family again. He signed up for a reconciliation week.

“I thought it was what I needed to do to get my family back,” he told Swedish Radio's local news.

The method is known as "restorative justice," and was first brought to Sweden from South Africa in 2011. Försoningsgruppen reaches out to families and victims and arranges a week of mediation.

Jenny Mårtensson is the secretary of Försoningsgruppen. She said:

A criminal way of life means you block out the fact you’re harming others; it’s your way of surviving. But progressively during these weeks, something changes.”

Peter was confronted with his family and friends, and even though it was a difficult meeting, he said it became a turning point for him. He is now drug free and works as a caretaker, but most of all, he is happy to have his family back in his life.

“It feels amazing when we see each other and I can hug them. I’m able to tell them that I love them, and they tell me they love me. It’s been a very big change,” he said.