Finnish prisoners given rights to receive emails behind bars

Helsinki, Dec 18 (IANS) Inmates behind bars have the right to receive emails and will later be given access to limited use of the internet in Finland, the Finnish Criminal Sanctions Agency announced on Thursday.

The changes are based on an amendment of the Finnish Prison Act that took effect in May 2015. The amendment offered the prisoners better opportunities of communicating with friends and family members, Xinhua reported.

Senior specialist Kati Sunimento said that Finland could be the first country in Europe to make digital communication available in prisons. “The progress of the Finnish launch is being watched with interest in other European countries,” Sunimento said.

Initially, the prisoners can only receive emails, but from the end of next year they are likely to be able to respond as well, the agency said. They will not be given access to social media such as Facebook though.

The reform is also expected to provide more educational opportunities. For example, the Finnish Matriculation Examination can be taken online later.

The Criminal Sanctions Agency underlined in its press release that being able to act in the digital environment is a required civic ability these days.

The reform concerns the so-called closed prisons only. In Finland, about one third of the prisons are open institutions permitting their inmates to leave premises during the day and presuming them to come back. Inmates of open prisoners have been able to use the internet outside the prison.

No attachments or pictures will be allowed in the emails that go to prisoners. Special collective addresses have been established for sending emails to inmates of Finnish prisons.

The agency said lawyers must decide themselves whether they want to use emails for their communication with the prisoners.

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