What does a Norwegian prison look like?

What a Norwegian prison looks like

Marius Schmidt There are legends about Norwegian prisons – according to eyewitnesses, the local system of re-education of criminals is so humane. If in most countries prisoners are in the most uncomfortable conditions and are literally being punished for their crimes, then here they are being prepared for life in freedom, creating such conditions that they really want to return to a normal existence.

Prisons closed

There are two types of prisons in Norway: closed and open. Closed-type prisons are surrounded by a high fence under guard, the prisoners there are almost constantly in solitary confinement, going out to public places only when accompanied by guards. Cells are searched daily and there are strict restrictions on personal belongings. That is, the regime is quite strict. Another thing is that with all these features, Norwegian closed prisons differ significantly from, for example, Russian maximum security prisons both in comfort and in the degree of freedom of prisoners.

The average cell size is 12 square meters. m, these are rooms with modern furniture and a bathroom, in some places with a shower.

Initially, almost all convicts end up in closed prisons. With a year remaining until the end of the term, the administration considers transferring to a low-monitoring (open) prison. If the term does not exceed two years, the prisoner can immediately go to such a prison.

And open

It is them that we usually compare with hotels and resorts. The conditions of stay in them are really faintly reminiscent of prison ones: the territory is surrounded by a conditional fence, which is easy to climb over – but it is impossible, and the prisoners do not do this. Inside the fence, they move freely around the territory, without being accompanied by guards. They spend a lot of time on the street, in some prisons they even walk in the forest on their own.

The cells are not locked and they are examined less often than in closed prisons, you can use the phone (although calls are often tapped), and you can see your loved ones.

The idea behind these prisons is to give inmates a sense of psychological freedom, which is important to keep in touch with real life, especially if the sentence is short or release is close.

Correction by work and right leisure

In Norwegian prisons, prisoners must be kept busy, unless they have a medical contraindication. Most of them work, some study at schools or take retraining and advanced training courses. The work may be related to some kind of production or maintenance of the prison itself: cleaning, cooking, washing, prisoners can work as librarians, lawyers, even financial consultants. All prisoners, without exception, receive a small cash allowance of NOK 74 per day. Those who perform particularly important and complex work receive more – up to 104 NOK. You can save money and take the entire amount upon release, or you can spend it on cigarette products at a local store.

In their free time, prisoners have leisure options: a library, sports grounds, and sometimes exercise machines. There are other entertainments, for example, the Halden Fengsel prison is proud of its own recording studio. It is curious that the guards often play with the prisoners, and they also eat together – in the common dining room. In some particularly quiet prisons, they don't even have weapons, and most of the guards are women. There are practically no fights or escapes in these prisons. 1/1

To be fair

However, a prison is always a prison, even a Norwegian one . Prisoners themselves say that being in such prisons can be difficult, especially for those who have already served time in other countries. Just lying on a bunk and mindlessly walking under escort will not work here: life is similar to normal, but with severe restrictions and plenty of time for reflection. This seems to be working as it should: according to statistics, in Norway less than 20% are re-imprisoned. In other countries, this figure is much higher.

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