Pulitzer Center Update May 5, 2022

Grantee Shares Lessons from Finland's Open Prisons

Author:

Journalist Natalie Y. Moore, a Pulitzer Center grantee and a 2020 Richard C. Longworth Media fellow, discussed how her project on Finland's open prison system has lessons for movements in Chicago to make prison systems more socially-conscious.

Moore, the race, class, and communities reporter at Chicago's WBEZ, participated in a seminar hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs on April 21, 2022. 

The event was moderated by Shannon Heffernan, a criminal justice reporter at WBEZ, Chicago's NPR station. 

People apply to be in Finland's “open prisons,” which don’t have gates, locks, or uniforms. The incarcerated earn money and can go into town. They can also choose to pursue a university degree instead of working.

Moore talked about the interconnected nature of the Finnish prison system with its health, education, and social safety net systems, and how these are based on research outside political influence. She also spoke on how creating an egalitarian society arose in direct response to Finland's existential threat from Russia. 

She made direct comparisons with American social systems and explained how race has uniquely shaped those systems.

"Crime at the turn of the 20th century, even in Chicago, was seen as society's problem. When crime happened in Black neighborhoods, that was seen as 'those people's problem to fix,'" she said.

Despite surges of white immigrant crime in the city at the time, much of officials' efforts to handle that was directed at Black communities, she added. "So, there's always been the racialization of crime."

She then moved on to prison abolitionists and how those arguments fit in with her reporting: "I don't think that this would be seen as abolition because it's still a prison. But if a more humane system existed, maybe there wouldn't be the need for abolition." 

Moore is an award-winning journalist based in Chicago. Her reporting tackles race, housing, economic development, food injustice, and violence. 

Her acclaimed book The South Side: A Portrait of Chicago and American Segregation received the 2016 Chicago Review of Books Award for nonfiction and was BuzzFeed’s best nonfiction book of 2016.

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