Please sign the petition to help Peter!
On September 15 shortly after his father’s death, Mats Kolmisoppi, brother of Peter Sunde Kolmisoppi, made a rare statement about his brother’s imprisonment and the effect on their family. The original is in Swedish, but even through the clunky filter of Google Translate, the moving, heartbreaking commentary shines through.
This is a crucial perspective, a condemnation of a system of “justice” which many of us believe to be superior, aspirational, even close to perfect. I share it here – roughly translated as it is – because these are words the English-speaking world needs to hear.
Please help to correct any mistakes or gaps where mechanical translations just cannot capture the Swedish words.
Although international outrage has stopped some of the threats, it is more important than ever that we remember these abuses. Peter is now back in Västervik, under the same authorities that made these threats. And others, even as famous as he, have suffered the affront he avoided:
— Kristina Svartholm (@KSvartholm) September 19, 2014
The Swedish authorities may have spared Brokep the same treatment because it was bad PR. No doubt they hoped a show of mercy would mollify the anger at the abuses within the walls of Västervik and elsewhere in the so-called “perfect” prison system. But PR is no substitute for humanity. Read, and keep fighting.
“On prison, my brother, and our father’s illness.
I have deliberately said very little about what happened to my brother, Peter Sunde, the last few months. Partly because he can speak for himself and not have difficulty being heard, even though he sits in a prison with a high-security rating in Västervik. But the few times prisoners talk about their own plight in prison, [they are] listened to notoriously rarely, and what has happened in recent weeks has had such large consequences in my life that, I have to say at least something.
A few decades ago, there was a consensus in regards to the second part of the word “kriminalvård” [correctional system]. That was the thrust of the treatment, at least in the political discussions. What we then favored [was] not for society to break [one] down. Instead, reducing crime required that the inmate was offered help and support to get out of his criminality. The reality was certainly less idealistic, prisons had major flaws as well. But the deficiencies have become larger by a tightening of the penalties associated with creative interpretations of the rules by the ruling [authorities] in prisons.
Peter sits thus, since May, locked in Västervik [prison]. A class 2-institution that aspires to be as high security as the more famous Class 1 institutions, Kumla and Hall. It is also the institution most frequently criticized by the Ombudsman in recent years. Why he is right there is unclear. But already a few days before the verdict against The Pirate Bay fell, he had been assigned place at the institution. As a public figure, he has ended up in a department with prisoners who are either high-profile or in need of peace and separation from the rest of the inmates. Normally, people generally [??] to the division itself, because it involves a minimum of activity to be there. Peter has not, however, been given any choice, and he will not be able to go elsewhere either.
When he arrived at the office of the security department, they did a compulsory rating of him, the result was unsurprisingly a non-existent risk of either violence or escape attempts. The other prisoners do not understand why he is there, several of the guards shake their heads and say the same thing. At most, he will be in an open prison, in view of the judgment which took legal effect.
In similar cases, it would have been obvious with electronic tagging [being released with an ankle bracelet(?)] But for the murky reasons, the prison decided to do just the opposite.
Even when he is [applying] for permission for the first time, the head of the department [came] into his room with a smile on his face and says, “I have good news for you Peter, your application is rejected.” Further, he makes it clear that Peter should not hope for any leave time. Nor to be transferred to another institution. And hopes of electronic tagging, he should beat [them] out of his mind.
We talk to each other on the phone every day. I hear him talk about collective punishment in the form of mandatory urine testing as a deterrent, even though the General Counsel of the penitentiary, [in response to] to a written question from Peter, points out that urine tests can only be carried out on individual assessments. The guards follow orders, they say. Peter “does not understand how it works,” at the institution. Even when he is presenting the statute book, pointing to sections or criminal law [precedent?], they shrug their shoulders, they follow orders.
They do as they’re told.
That is why, when a prisoner goes into the bathroom they can wait outside. That is why, when he comes out of the toilet they can say, “Now is the time for the urine test,” and then bring him to a bare room, where he must undress all clothes and pee before the two guards. Have you already peed? Tough luck. Then you wait until you can do it again.
It happens [with] more things. Things that can not be verified because the insight into the correctional system is missing. I hear about people going to the dentist, the one that gave the lowest bid in public procurement. How many of the inmates come back in worse shape than when they went there. The dentist pulled the wrong teeth, it’s splinters left in the gums.
The guards shrug. It is not their responsibility to make sure that the man – who, in addition to his being denied painkillers, also bleed down all their sheets – have access to emergency dental care. Although the law says that emergency dental treatment should be administered urgently. Not in six days. Not in a week and a half. It must be taken up by those who decide, with the authorities.
The guards are just doing their job. They do as they’re told.
I hear how the institution has set a system that begins to unlock the doors at seven in the morning and locks up the inmates from a quarter to seven in the evening. This means that all are locked up longer than the twelve hours per day permitted by law.
The guards must not [work] overtime. They just follow the institution’s regulations.
“You do not understand how it works here.”
Anyone who points out that they are breaking the law is a rättshaverist [“pejorative term for somebody who insist the rule of law be followed, even when it’s inconvenient for bureaucrats to do so” – Thanks, Rick Falkvinge!]
You are expected to understand that, for practical reasons, it is not working as it is said that it should work.
Therefore, the hours outdoors you are entitled to equals fifty minutes a day.
Therefore, he may eat mashed potatoes served with boiled potatoes. And hopefully the kitchen has put aside some extra fruit, because he is a vegan. They claim that he is served nutritious and good food. Despite that, he has lost thirteen kilograms. He has been given by the doctor notes several deficiencies. Among other things, he has received iron and vitamin B12 deficiency. The only problem is that the doctor may not write certificates anymore. It was basically as complicated when he did.
Therefore, there is not a failure of the food.
I hear how they handle criticism from the Ombudsman. How those [ögontjänare] change the routines a tad until the storm blowns over. What should they do? JO [justitieombudsman, Parliamentary Ombudsman?] still has no muscle to put behind their criticism. There is no regulatory authority.
Therefore, the letters continue to be read by security staff thought it is clear that the item has been checked by the required stamps institution shall use, especially when they happen to come from people whose names the mail room staff recognize.
“You do not understand how it works here,” they say.
Then he is refused release [in his] next application, then the next. There is no logic, no reason for refusal. The rules require permission is also given to those who have a high escape probability.
Indeed, it has to do with that care again, that even prisoners should have the opportunity to meet with family and friends, it [handar on] their psychosocial health. But now that the regular boss has gone on holiday, it seems to go easier. The deputy chief says it will be arranged. There are, as we know, no danger that Peter will escape. No other prisoner has such a low flight risk as he.
Not least given that his father is ill.
Not least because the punishment is relatively short.
Not least given that his father is ill.
Prison authorities think differently.
They reason as follows: there is certainly no escape risk. But if he escapes. Then it would lead to a media disaster. Therefore, it is in their refusal that there is – not just a great – but a likely escape risk.
That’s how it works at the institution.
Can you verify that what I say is true? It is doubtful, there is no transparency.
No chance to really examine what is happening in a Swedish security-rated institution. But there are witnesses. And there are lawyers. And there are opportunities to never let go or give up the fight against a system that is so obviously devoted to breaking down rather than building people up. But prospects are small. Västervik has previously been criticized by the Ombudsman to change the data, delete notes, do not let the inmates receive copies of decisions. They pull themselves hardly to deny if anyone would get the idea to review them.
Not at all, responds the institution, we follow the rules. We offer several programs for the inmates. We offer training, for example!
He borrowed the “Spanish for Beginners.”
He has now in his room.
Time passes and our father becomes ill. Peter is worried about what happens. My father is old and has severe pain in his leg. After lung cancer twenty years ago, he has only one lung left. He has heart surgery and hip [surgery]. And just this summer, his weight has plummeted.
Why does Peter do not leave?
For their revenge on him.
It’s the only plausible explanation.
I say it again: there is no reason, nothing prevents Peter’s release. But it has the prestige of it all. He wins a small impact, for us who are on the outside, small things. JO does not put down his filings. The mailroom is forced to change their routines. The inmates refused to go into the yard before it’s gone for an hour. He helps the other with documents and appeals. He pushes that the department should have their own copy of the laws available. He submits appeals and applications. They annoyed him. They say, “it’s an opportunity to leave,” but that’s not true. By law, [these are] prisoners’ rights. Rights that can not be seen as rewards for servile behavior, but that is how they are used.
Those who demand their rights are punished.
“Good news! Your application is dismissed! “
Dad gets worse and ends up in the hospital. It is the foot, it is atherosclerosis, it is the herniated disc, it is the lung, it’s weight collapse, it’s the pain and the suspected cancer. The summer of 2014 should go down in history as one of the worst in the history of KSS. The hospital is understaffed. Nurses speak out in the media about how they are crying because they can not keep up. There is insufficient space. And dad moved between several departments. Peter tries as best he can. He applies for permission again and again. And lo and behold, in the end the application almost goes through …
The situation is serious, but Peter gets no ordinary leave. Two guards accompany [him] instead. The trip from the town of Skövde is long. He will therefore only see my dad three hours. But sure. It’s always something. He must at least meet his sick father.
But they still refuse to give him a regular leave.
The guards provided are friendly. They understand, everybody understands, who would not? – That there is absolutely no escape risk. Dad is sick. He wants to see his son. Peter wants to meet his father. And he gets to meet his father. This time and again.
How do you judge a prisoner’s escape probability? How do you make a risk analysis? The release system is designed in such a way that a successful release leads to new opportunities. Six hours will eventually lead to twenty-four hours. Anyone who may leave is also entitled to apply to be transferred to another institution and increase the chances of electronic tagging. Those who have not received release have very little opportunity for either, although in frivårdens the rules alone are that the inmate “should” have had leave that tagging should be mentioned. A guarded special release is not counted in the system as a release.
Thus it is like he has never been outside the prison walls. He got to meet my dad. He has traveled with guards. He has managed. He has been exemplary. But he can not leave. There is no new evidence to judge whether he should be released. Despite the occasional boss, now in talks with the lawyer, saying that there are not any barriers for Peter to get it. But a few days later, the boss is unavailable.
Peter would most likely run away, according to the decision.
Probation may not issue further punishment than the one already imposed in the courtroom. But it is difficult to draw conclusions other than that Peter’s case involves pure punishment in combination with anxiety and cowardice. If he escapes. Then. Then it becomes a media hell for the institution criticized the most times by the JO. Peter tells us that they have barbed wire fence with razor blades. They pay large sums each year for this in liquidated damages. The call it the “dispensation”.
Institution say they put safety first.
They feel they need razor blades and break the rules and pay the fine every year. They need to have razor blades. Otherwise accommodate people. [???] The proof of the razor blades’ efficiency? The relatively low number of escapes. But it happens so clearly that people can hold anyway. On leave, for instance. Of course it happens. [???]
Dad’s illness worsens. Summer continues out there on the Billing slope. Sweden’s oldest TV tower continues to send out signals, as well as Sweden’s tallest TV tower near Västervik Institution. But soon the summer will end. And after the holiday, the regular boss will return. There had recently been an improvement. Peter was about to get the ankel bracelet (for electronic monitoring), to get release, be granted transfer. But with the approaching autumn returns the strict arrangement.
Permission is, of course, not on the radar.
Peter will stay where he is.
Systemic reasons is nothing to verify. It is difficult to gain insight into the penitentiary. It is a closed community within a community, without regulatory authority, with the classification [classified information?] at the time.
Therefore, everything I write is fiction. Nothing is true. Nothing is real.
Therefore, I deal with the fictitious plitarna och påvarna [??screws and popes??] as I want. They are nothing but literary constructions. This particular småpåven trying to become a security officer over the prison. But also the other småpåven roars from time to time. [He] turns red in the face and calls inmates things that no one should be called. In prison, the system is designed so that the only ones expected to speak calmly and rationally are the inmates. There are urine tests, isolation cells, deprivation of privileges, sudden searches and other interrogations.
An employee need not worry. There’s no transparency.
Therefore, there is no truth. Therefore, all is hearsay, delusions and libel.
Everybody knows that it doesn’t happen like this. There is no conspiracy. Why would they be interested in messing with him? It goes without saying. It falls on its face. And he deserves, right? He is doomed. It’ll be difficult and tedious to sit in jail. It is society’s sullied reputation. He’ll surely sit there? Ashamed of what he convicted of? Take his sentence. Sitting still in the boat. And there is certainly pity for the employees. They only have a few days of training. It is a harsh environment. They serve the poor. And they just do as they’re told.
“You do not understand how it works here.”
“But you are breaking the law.”
“You do not understand. It would be much easier for you, if you did not mouth off so much. “
One fitting illustration. (Though fiction, because nothing can be verified.) Say that in the case of a prison in Alaska or Siberia. This makes it easier: This tundra institution paid for all medicines out of the prison, which may not take any subsidies. A heart medication costs as much as a heart medication costs. The drugs as well. It is a burden on the institution, which does his best to hold down the cost. When a heavily medicated and psychologically sick man comes to the doctor, the latter two issues that respond to: How do you ensure that people do not hurt themselves and how do you ensure that the economy is not strained?
The solution is as simple as it is ingenious: Take away all the drugs, much of which is for anxiety, and ensure that the inmate ends up in solitary confinement with monitoring a week or two.
And what happens to the heart-sick
who are deprived of their expensive medicines
in this fiction
He dies, of course.
Also it will be cheaper in the long run.
My father came to Sweden in the 60s. He was one of those Finns that looked for work and quickly found it. The story has been told many times and is now a major part of the national self-understanding: Dad and his friends arrived in Stockholm on Saturday. On Monday morning, they worked at Volvo in Skövde.
Now he was on KSS. This is where it began, he said, then we called the nurses to ask how it was going with the samples and medicine. He had worked at the hospital construction site for a few weeks almost fifty years ago, but now we pointed out the faults in the room. What a fucking cheating construction. The wheel had come loose from the folding screen. The painting was hanging crooked on the wall. Small annoying things. Professional pride, sure, but also a way to talk about other things. About the angles and distances. And nothing did it cost the country that he moved to.
It was a pure profit business to society, until he became ill.
All these constructions which he pointed out as we drove down the highway.
That was me that build [it].
It was when we were working at the airport.
Then said [of the] base.
“But is it really safe that he is sick? It may well be that you’re just saying that he is sick? Now you’ve also got two guarded paroles. You should be grateful for the leave of absence that you have already received. “
Suspected cancer in the remaining lung. Non-existent blood circulation in the leg that was black and had to be amputated. Gasbrandsbakterier (infection) took hold in the wound. Within six hours they had spread so high that a new emergency amputation must be carried out, this time they took as much as they could of the leg. Suspected metastases, difficult to control because he only had one lung. The wound did not heal. Possibly also need the hip prosthesis removed, but then at Sahlgrenska (hospital).
Though there was probably no real alternative.
Peter ought to be grateful. He has received two brief, guarded paroles. Escape risk is significant. The media disaster. There is no evidence that the former chief has said that the risk of escape is nonexistent. He would never admit it if he was asked. But the guards have heard it. The inmates have heard it.
All decisions may be appealed to the person who made the decision, who then makes a new decision, which can then be appealed to the Administrative Court for an opinion procedure involving submission of action after action after action. Then the administrative court Institution line. So it looks. A How It Works exercise of authority in the penitentiary.
And since the election, when dad passes away:
Want to say goodbye now or at the funeral?
And he chooses the funeral. We want to say goodbye to our father together. We have determined that our father will be buried in Sweden. He lived here. He created a new life here. This was where he belonged. And certainly it is possible to arrange a special release. Peter chooses to go to the funeral.
But something happens in the weeks go by.
Someone escapes from prison. Someone running away from the guards. And security must be increased. The regular boss is keen on safety. Safety is the first priority There’s nothing more important than safety in a Swedish prison that aspires to a higher security classification. They want to be sure of safety. That means a new deal.
As the Swedish krimnalvården is designed, it punishes not only my brother. It punishes me, it punishes my now dead father, the punishing my mother, my family, my relatives and my friends. It has absolutely no resemblance to vård (care). Instead, it makes people sick. It makes inmates apathetic. It institutionalizes. In its secret and invisible heart, guards work even though they know that they are breaking the laws and regulations, they refer to their bosses, they follow orders, they are afraid to speak up. Some enjoy even the little power they managed to usurp inside the walls. All criticism, even that which comes from JO, runs off them like water off a greasy goose. They pride themselves on safety. They are extremely proud of their safety.
But I have trouble seeing how security is eliminated if they let my brother go to the funeral without guards.
They say now that my brother would escape if he just comes accompanied by two guards. And all risk must be eliminated. The best course, had been to deny him altogether. To say that it is unfortunately not possible. You will not leave. But they are not inhuman. The name is still kriminalvården (care). So he may come. With two guards from the security department. Wearing handcuffs.
“But I will carry my father’s coffin.”
“You can not count on it. You must be handcuffed.”
And the chains around the stomach.
So looking at the security culture of Västervik Institution. So kriminalvårdar to people in this country. Or: How to create distrust in the system.
So the state produces hate.”
An update from Mats after his father’s funeral:
Many thanks for all the support and attention for my brother and my family’s situation. Yesterday we buried our father. A nice and quiet affair. Peter was able to carry the coffin and attend the memorial service without handcuffs. The guards were respectful and kept to the background.
That does not change the fact that he spent the last week living with the threat that both magfängsel (stomach chains?) and handcuffs could be put to use. But we are thankful that he did not have to endure such humiliation. Maybe he did not have to because of all the attention surrounding the case that you helped to create. Me, my brother and my family are deeply grateful. All heat (warmth?) to you.
My hope is that the spotlight is now not turned away from the Swedish prison service. Peter is still locked up in Västervik Institution. The abuses are great, there as in other institutions, and transparency is minimal. Few inmates have the opportunity to make their voices heard in public. The few times they do, they nevertheless are refused to be heard all too easily by the prison service managers, as well as by a public that demands tougher punishment. I hope for change, that institutions should be required to answer, that a regulator with real powers to change the system is set up. At that transparency will increase.