This 19th edition of HesaMag, the ETUI magazine on health and safety at work, focuses on working conditions behind bars. To work in prison is to work on the margins of society. To work as a prisoner and to work with prisoners is a very ordinary job in terms of the actual actions and tasks being performed. But the context in which the work is being performed is radically different to the “outside” world. This issue is rarely addressed in occupational health.

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Editorial - Three Mile Island - lest we forget

The events commemorated by a society – and the events passed over with silence – say a lot about that society. The anniversary of the Three Mile Island accident, which occurred 40 years ago in a nuclear power plant in the United States, has received almost no media coverage, even though it was a major incident which, in many ways, sowed the seeds... Find out more

Berta Chulvi

What are TUPAs? A trade union tool to reach the most vulnerable people

Though TUPAs are not rebels fighting dictatorship in Latin America, they do represent a silent revolution in European trade union activity: they are trade union representatives who work at regional or sectoral level, going beyond corporate boundaries and allowing trade unions to reach people who work in organisations in which union representation... Find out more

Yennef Vereycken, Monique Ramioul

Employment quality of prison staff in Europe: trapped in a vicious circle?

What is the employment quality of prison staff in Europe after a decade of austerity measures for public services? That was the highly relevant research topic of a study carried out by HIVA-KU Leuven, commissioned by the European Federation of Public Service Unions (EPSU). To answer this question, four countries were examined: Sweden, the United... Find out more

Five questions for… Nadja Salson (EPSU)

Interview with Nadja Salson What is the European trade unions’ position on imprisonment? Nadja Salson — The European trade unions subscribe to the Council of Europe’s European Prison Rules, under which imprisonment must be a last resort that is limited to the already substantial measure of a custodial sentence. The prison system must protect... Find out more

Laura-Maria Ilie, Florentin Cassonnet

Jilava, Romania’s "open prison" experiment

Jilava penitentiary centre, to the south of Bucharest, is one of the largest prisons in Romania and one of the rare prisons of which the Romanian prison system can be proud. What served as a political prison during the Communist regime now houses around 1 000 prisoners under open and semi-open regimes, half of whom work inside or outside the prison... Find out more

Deborah Berlioz

“We are more like social workers than guards”

In Norway, prison guards are employed not just to open and close doors. As guarantors of security, psychologists and guidance counsellors, they are an integral part of the rehabilitation process. There are only 25 prisoners in the small prison at Sarpsborg in the south of Norway. Although the barbed wire and cameras at the entrance signal that this... Find out more

Arthur Frayer, Sadak Souici

An uncertain road to reintegration

At the Melun detention centre, over a hundred prisoners work in the printshop and metal workshop. Here they learn useful trades for when they leave prison. However, wages are very low and labour rights are patchy. In the printshop On this Tuesday morning in January, it is arctic cold and, in the prison yard at Melun, puddles of water have frozen in... Find out more

Ann Norman

My experiences as a prison nurse

Prisoners suffer from poorer health than the rest of the population. It is also more difficult for them to access healthcare, further exacerbating this inequality. A British nurse reveals how crucial this issue is if we want to prevent the “double punishment” of prisoners. During the 1990s, I worked as a nurse delivering frontline care in an old... Find out more

From compassion to revolt: women volunteers talk

Men make up a majority of both prison inmates and prison staff. In contrast, external people working in prisons, who do not form part of the prison structure, are more often than not female. They carry out a variety of roles: from public servants in some countries (teachers and health workers) through to volunteers. Many of them work for... Find out more

Marianne De Troyer

Living and working under electronic monitoring

Considered a soft alternative to prison, electronic monitoring is an increasingly popular option as it enables the harmful effects of prison to be avoided, and better prepares prisoners for their release and for living in the outside world… Is there really no downside? Over the last few decades, the use of electronic monitoring as an instrument of... Find out more

Marianne De Troyer

When our work follows us into our dreams… or rather our nightmares

Attempts to improve working conditions apply unusual or even surprising approaches. This remarkable film, created by a film director in collaboration with doctors and workers, utilises dreams to express the inhumanity of capitalism. Sophie Bruneau, a Belgian filmmaker and anthropologist, has crafted an uncompromising documentary – Dreaming Under... Find out more

Working at from honeymoon to divorce

Although he is only in his early 30s, Julien Vincent can already look back on a long career as an Amazon employee and union activist. We first met him in London during a meeting of the global alliance of trade unions representing Amazon employees, when we were so impressed with his honesty and candour that we arranged to meet him again (in a bar in... Find out more

In praise of work on the side

Some books catch your eye first as an object. This is the case with Robert Kosmann’s book in which the illustrations and text combine to powerful effect. A wealth of photos allows you to flick through the book, in an order of your choosing, without necessarily reading the associated text. The book as a whole sheds light on a common situation in the... Find out more

When public health comes a poor second to profit

Tobacco causes lung cancer, sugar and fizzy drinks are the primary cause of tooth decay in children, workplace exposure to asbestos is strongly linked to mesothelioma, diesel engine emissions and certain pesticides have carcinogenic properties – and the list goes on. Yet despite being aware of the mountain of evidence proving the toxicity of these... Find out more

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Working behind bars