Finland: Human Rights and The Freedom of Prisoners

Another thought from mine about Finnish education.


This weekend, I unintentionally had a chance to watch one episode from the docuseries “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons” on Netflix, and that one episode got my attention because it was about one prison in Finland – Kylmäkoski prison (Kylmäkosken vankila).

The name of that episode is Finland: The Free Choice Prison.

Kylmäkoski prison (Kylmäkosken vankila)

I have to say that I am very impressed with the “toughest prison” in Finland. Before the screen really showed the scenes inside the prison, I imagined that it would look like something I saw in Vietnamese, American, or Korean movies (I actually have never visited a prison in real life).

My first impression of Kylmakoski prison was “Oh… Looks just like a school” (maybe because I am a student in Finland now, and I also used to be a volunteer teacher in schools in Poland).

The second impression to me was the prisoners had their own room, and the right to choose activities they would like to join, even going for a walk/ exercise in the morning, going to the gym, or learning some offered apprenticeships in prison, etc., Every prisoner have their right to choose.

Of course, each one had their own process in prison, because some might choose to join an apprenticeship everyday, some might just go to the gym and then go back to their area and stay for the rest of their day. Those was their choice.

Good or bad?

The host of the episode, Raphael Rowe, commented that the prison in Finland was not good in that way, since he thought for those prisoners, if there was no force, they might never change. However, when he had an interview with the Director of the prison, Harri Ramo, and asked what Hari thought about the freedom that the prison was offering to prisoners, and if that way was really effective enough to regenerate those toughest prisoners. While answering, Hari still kept his opinion on the management activities of Kylmakoski prison, that they believe in human rights, and they wanted to treat all prisoners just like normal humans, by letting them have their right to choose what they want to do and learn.

I am very impressed and emotional by the way the Finnish doing with prisoners. Here, prisoners have good living conditions and the right to choose things they want to do. Finnish prisons just offer them things to do, even if it is learning, exercising, or mental consulting. Nothing in force, because for them, forcing means nothing. Making progress to change to be a better human needs to be decided by each prisoner. 

My thought and wish regarding to my home country

I personally agree with this. My whole life before coming to Finland, I was living in my country, Vietnam, where many parents still force their children to become the person they want by being involved in many things their children do even if they are over 18. Moreover, in some aspects, human rights in Vietnam at this time are not as respected as in Finland. Therefore, for me, Finland is like a new world, and there are many things in Finland I hope that Vietnam could change to be like that in the future.

Another side thing I recognized is, that when I read newspapers about criminals in Finland, never I saw an image or specific information about victims and criminals, they were protected for human rights. On the opposite, in Vietnam, no matter what you do, significantly serious or not, if you were in newspapers, your face would be there, even all your Facebook photos will be dug, re-posted, and shared by many random people, and there are many chances your parents’ names and home address would be on newspapers or shared on the social network as well. 

When I compare these, I did not mean to look down on my country, but I just want our people and even myself to acknowledge and hope that in the near future, we can be like Finland, with the hope that at least that change could make people living in my home country a bit happier day by day.

Freedom in prison – Freedom in Finland education

This episode of “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons” brought me some more knowledge and thinking about Finnish culture and education. Being opposite to the opinion of host Raphael Rowe, I really respect the way Finnish prisons work, and I believe that when people really choose what they do, they are happier and can make real progress in improving their lives and knowledge.

Like the story of Jani, a prisoner in that episode, he has been out and back in prison many times in his life. Before this time, he did not either decide to follow any apprenticeship or wanted to change his way, but finally, he decided to change. He found joy and happiness in what he did, he found his future different, and he had plans and goals for a better life. Also, one lovely thing I discovered via the story of Jani was that a prisoner in Finland even was allowed to do blind dating with a new person from outside, and this was also a huge push for Jani’s progress to be a better person.

His story just made me think widely about the patience of all the people in charge of the prison, and the Finnish government as well. They have been patient with those prisoners, just like Jani, and then finally, some people like Jani made their decision to change, and they really changed and found something for the future. That was their choice so they really changed and were really happy. That is their real change, their real transformation!


Many details in this episode made me emotional and kept thinking so I wrote this post. I could not include all the details here, but if you are interested to know clearly, I recommended to watch this episode, it is in season 7 of “Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons” on Netflix, named “Finland: The Free Choice Prison”.