My short bio: I am Risto Miinalainen, a 19-year-old upper secondary school student and conscientious objector from Finland. Finland has compulsory military service, though women, Jehovah's Witnesses and people from Åland are not required to serve. A civilian service option exists for those who refuse to serve in the military, but this service lasts more than twice as long as the shortest military service. So-called total objectors like me refuse both military and civilian service, which results in a sentence of 173 days. I sent a notice of refusal in late 2015, was sentenced to 173 days in prison in spring 2016 and did my time in Suomenlinna prison, Helsinki, from the 4th of October 2016 to the 25th of March 2017. In addition to my pacifist beliefs, I made my decision to protest against the human rights violations of Finnish conscription: international protectors of human rights such as Amnesty International and the United Nations Human Rights Committee have for a long time demanded that Finland shorten the length of civilian service to match that of military service and that the possibility to be completely exempted from service based on conscience be given to everybody, not just a single religious group - Amnesty even considers Finnish total objectors prisoners of conscience. An individual complaint about my sentence will be lodged to the European Court of Human Rights in the near future. AMA! Information about Finnish total objectors

My Proof: A document showing that I have completed my prison sentence (in Finnish) A picture of me to compare with for example this War Resisters' International page or this news article (in Finnish)

Edit 3pm Eastern Time: I have to go get some sleep since I have school tomorrow. Many great questions, thank you to everyone who participated!

Comments: 8261 • Responses: 19  • Date: 

penguiin_1563 karma

How was it in prison? I hear prisons in Finland, Sweden, Norway etc are relatively nice. Also, how did your fellow inmates treat you when they heard what you were in for?

Triplecon1632 karma

Suomenlinna prison is a so-called open prison, which means that inmates are relatively low-security and moving (mostly) freely in the prison perimeter was permitted within the daily timetable's limitations. Most Finnish prisons are "closed" and correspond more to a layperson's view of a prison.

As for other prisoners' reactions, I never really got anything too negative. Some thought I am fighting windmills, some thought my choice was admirable, but no one was hostile towards me due to my reason of imprisonment. Most seemed to think that I didn't belong in prison, but nevertheless respected me standing up for my beliefs.

Phobos15477 karma

What kind of crimes did the other inmates in the open prison commit?

Triplecon811 karma

We had all kinds of people from sexual criminals to drug dealers and white-collar criminals. My long-time roommate was convicted of a white-collar crime, but the house I lived in also had people with a history of violence and/or sexual crime. There was even a triple murderer in Suomenlinna a few years ago, though I (luckily) wasn't there then.

ellis1884uk286 karma

how common is it for people to refuse? was there anyone else in the prison in your situation?

Triplecon575 karma

The yearly amount of total objectors is about a few dozen. When I first came to the prison, I heard there was another one there at the time, but I never got the chance to meet them.

Scrags799 karma

You've gotten a lot of different responses in this thread. Regardless of whether people agree or disagree, I'd just like to point out that you made a non-violent act of resistance, accepted the consequences that came with it, and in doing so created a larger discussion. That is a textbook example of the right way to approach civil disobedience so you should be commended for standing up for your beliefs and getting involved in your community.

Since I have to ask a question, what kind of music do you like?

Triplecon165 karma

I have a very broad taste, as long as the music is actually done music first: I can switch from a Sibelius symphony to some prog death to an a cappella choir. I also sing bass in a choir, play the clarinet in a wind band and sometimes compose simple melodies.

anthony_al47480 karma

Wait a second, if you were in prison for 127 days and got out only last Saturday, how is your reddit age 28 days?

Triplecon519 karma

Prisoners at Suomenlinna can get access to Internet for approved reasons, though there are strict limitations: no browsing any sites not explicitly approved, no deleting browser history, etc.

sirmidor427 karma

As someone wholly unfamiliar with Finland, what's the reason that women don't have join up, either military or civilian service?
Is there any sentiment among the general public that they should or not, what's the general opinion?

Triplecon282 karma

Women have historically been exempt - in fact, the Finnish law on equality of the sexes specifically states that "women being exempt from military service is not discrimination". The idea that women and men should be treated the same military-wise has only recently become even somewhat mainstream politics. Public opinion on the matter is mixed, but I can't find a recent survey about it; a conscription-based military is fairly popular, though.

This comment chain also had questions about JWs and Åland. Jehovah's Witnesses are exempt due to a dated law that grants any person who can prove that they are a Jehovah's Witness complete exemption, even though JWs allow civilian service nowadays. As for Åland, the islands form an autonomous demilitarized zone where native residents have special rights, one of them being exemption from service unless a special law is enacted to enable service in certain civilian environments. Such a law has never been enacted, so the people of Åland remain fully exempt, though some choose to volunteer in the military.

manicbiguy401 karma

what socio-economic class are you? rich, poor, middle class etc?

Triplecon578 karma

Middle class, I guess. My family has never been too wealthy, but I don't think we're poor either. I am obviously still relatively young and my future isn't dead set yet, but an academic degree is definitely part of my plan. I will finish upper secondary school in a few months and getting a place in a university should be no problem with my study results.

kevin11040391 karma

How long was the mandatory service term?

Triplecon609 karma

Military service lasts 165, 225 or 347 days, while civilian service always lasts 347 days. My 173 days were calculated from the last number: the sentence of a total objector equals half of the civilian service left rounded down.

TooGnar174 karma

Would you have made the same choice, if you would of had to serve in a "closed" prison?

Triplecon283 karma

Yes. I feel like choosing otherwise would be lying to myself: total objection is the only way to complete my duty without supporting a discriminating system.

TomHicks164 karma

Do you resent that women are not conscripted? Do female Finns support male-only conscription in your experience? Why weren't you sentenced to home detention? I thought that was the current standard punishment for refusing conscription.

Triplecon57 karma

I don't think gender should be a factor in deciding who has to serve and who hasn't. In my experience, many females agree that our current system needs change, but this is likely biased due to my school environment being very liberal.

As for home detention, I was offered the chance but rejected it. From what I've heard, the ridiculously strict schedules and the fact that you are a prisoner in your own home mess with heads pretty bad. A common opinion is that "monitored sentence turns a home into a housing unit"; some have even had to move to a new place after their home has started to evoke negative memories from the sentence even after it has ended. I wanted to keep my sentence away from my real life, so I chose to go to prison instead - I would have had a ankle band either way. Some of the prisoners I have met have said that house arrest is actually more mentally taxing than prison, so I feel that I made the right choice.