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If you’ve ever endured the agonizing experience of spending the night in the “pokey”, you may appreciate the irony behind this story. One would think, at least a logical person, that the idea would be to stay out of jail. However, that’s not the case in Switzerland.

Jails and prisons are designed for a distinct purpose. They are structures used to confine a person or persons who have otherwise done something that requires punishment. Many of these individuals are deemed threats to society, so we lock them up behind bars.

Large prison structures are more restrictive than your standard county jail. The best design is one that serves its function. Jail isn’t supposed to be like a country club. However, there are a number of legal requirements that demand that conditions in jails and prisons remain humane.

Regardless, these institutions have the distinction of being rather unpleasant and less than accommodating. There is very little in common between a prison cell and a suite at the Marriott. On the contrary, jails are closer to cages at the zoo than they are to fancy hotel rooms.

But a new jail in Zurich, Switzerland, has local, non-criminals, lining up for a brief stay at the local “pokey”. This is so bizarre that one might think it is the plot for a new TV reality show. It’s not. People are actually submitting reservation requests for a few days at the Zurich West Prison.

Probably not the Hilton, but it seems to be a hot item on the “booking list” of local accommodations. There isn’t a payment or other type of compensation for these “temporary inmates”, nor do they pay anything for the experience.

Volunteer jailbirds get to browse “the yard”, get a taste of “jailhouse cuisine”, and sleep in an authentic jail cell bunk. This odd program is supposedly designed to help law enforcement develop better prison systems, access living conditions, and plan certain strategies.

As well, Swiss prison officials hope the program can reduce any unrealistic stigma that the public has about prison life. These volunteer inmates get an opportunity to see what guards and other prison officials do. However, even the “non-adjudicated jailbirds” must go through security.

There’s no strip search, unless one is requested personally. Why that would be a choice, we have no idea. There is one appealing fringe benefit for the volunteer prisoners. If you decide to reduce your “time” and leave, you don’t have to “bust out” or wait for parole. Is that ever a relief!


Daniel is a conservative syndicated opinion writer and amateur theologian. He writes about topics of politics, culture, freedom, and faith.

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