Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2022

Thesis Advisor(s)

Kristin Kelly; Matthew Singer

Honors Major

Political Science


The infrastructure of the United States prison system continues to evolve through a series of policy changes and reforms. Throughout these developments, however, the institution continues to remain rooted in the philosophy of harsh penalization. This thesis incorporates a comparative analysis between the concept of perpetrator punishment within the American federal prison system to the concept of rehabilitative justice found in the Swedish system. I conceptualize the underlying “goals” of imprisonment within the United States and Sweden and examine how they serve as an operational foundation for both institutions. I analyze American prison reform that took place during the “War on Drugs” under the Reagan administration in the 1980s, as this was a major pivotal point in modern incarceration. Using a similar timeframe to examine prison reform that occurred in Sweden, I highlight the key differences between domestic and Swedish policy. I argue that these resulting differences are symptomatic of the distinct cultural values positioned at the heart of each system.