Human Rights Law Compliance in Prisons: What Can Australia Learn from the Nordic Approach?

37 Pages Posted: 19 Dec 2016 Last revised: 8 Jan 2018

Anita Mackay

La Trobe Law School

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2015


The conditions in Australian prisons reveal that Australia is failing to comply with our international human rights law obligations as they apply to prisons. It is enlightening to compare this with the way the Nordic countries — regarded by some criminologists as having an ‘exceptional’ approach to imprisonment — comply with the same international legal obligations. This article argues that Finland provides comprehensive domestic legal protections, having recently updated its Constitution and prison law. Sweden offers some insight into the implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) (which Australia has signed, but is yet to ratify) and the Norwegian Ombudsman has a human rights mandate and is effective at having recommendations implemented by the government in a way that comparable monitoring organisations in Australia are not. The article suggests that there are lessons Australia may learn from the Nordic approach for the purposes of improving international human rights law compliance in prisons.

Suggested Citation

Mackay, Anita, Human Rights Law Compliance in Prisons: What Can Australia Learn from the Nordic Approach? (2015). 20(1) Australian Journal of Human Rights 31; La Trobe Law School - Law & Justice Research Paper Series Paper No. 16-18. Available at SSRN:

Anita Mackay (Contact Author)

La Trobe Law School ( email )

La Trobe University
Bundoora, VIC 3083 3142

Register to save articles to
your library


Paper statistics

Abstract Views