Officials in Switzerland are looking for volunteers to go behind bars to test procedures at a new prison – and hundreds of citizens have already applied, despite not getting a penny in return.
Elena Tankovski, a spokeswoman for the Zurich Canton Department of Juridical Issues and Reintegration, said the authority had already received 700 applications for the experiment at the newly-built Zurich-West Prison.
She explained that the trial will last from 23rd to 27th March, pointing out that the chosen volunteers will not be compensated financially.
The local judicial authority posted an application form and an FAQ section on its website, which says: “Do I receive any compensation for my participation?
“If you mean money, the answer is clear. No. You will not receive any money from us. Your compensation is the exclusive opportunity to be part of it. Board and lodging are also free. We are not a hotel. That’s why we don’t charge you for your stay.”
On its website, the Zurich Canton Judiciary underlines that this would mean a complete ban on computers and mobile phones. Volunteers will be allowed to quit at any time if they get bored or feel uncomfortable behind bars.
Anyone applying for the opportunity must be 18 or older and reside in the Canton of Zurich. All applicants will have to undergo a background check to ensure they do not have a criminal record.
Replying to the question “What’s for dinner?”, the FAQ section says, with dry humour: “[A]t best you’ll get water and bread. On Sundays it’s even wholemeal bread.”
However, it goes on to inform participants they will be able to choose between a meat dish, a vegetarian alternative and a halal option, adding that potential allergies will be considered.
Officials also stated online: “It is very important to us that you feel as safe as possible during the test run. In all cells you can contact the prison staff at any time via a call button. In particular, provocations and deliberate escalation of situations, assaults and attacks as well as damage to property endanger other test participants and our team. Such behaviour will lead to exclusion from the test run and may result in legal consequences for the participants concerned.”
Applicants must also disclose whether they are vaccinated against COVID-19. Officials have not yet made clear whether unvaccinated individuals will be able to participate.
The new prison is located on the grounds of Zurich’s former cargo station. It will have a capacity of up to 241 inmates and employ close to 150 people.
Officials are aiming to hold the trial as soon as possible so the jail can go into operation in April, with a full service from the third quarter of this year.