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Thread: Inside the World's Most Humane Prison

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    Elite Member Honey's Avatar
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    Default Inside the World's Most Humane Prison


    To ease the psychological burdens of imprisonment, the planners at Halden spent roughly $1 million on paintings, photography and light installations. According to a prison informational pamphlet, this mural by Norwegian graffiti artist Dolk "brings a touch of humor to a rather controlled space." Officials hope the art along with creative outlets like drawing classes and wood workshops will give inmates "a sense of being taken seriously." Photo taken 2010.


    The maximum sentence in Norway, even for murder, is 21 years. Since most inmates will eventually return to society, prisons mimic the outside world as much as possible to prepare them for freedom. At Halden, rooms include en-suite bathrooms with ceramic tiles, mini-fridges and flat-screen TVs. Officials say sleeker televisions afford inmates less space to hide drugs and other contraband.


    Every 10 to 12 cells share a kitchen and living room, where prisoners prepare their evening meals and relax after a day of work. None of the windows at Halden have bars.



    There's also a recording studio with a professional mixing board. In-house music teachers who refer to the inmates as "pupils," never "prisoners" work with their charges on piano, guitar, bongos and more. Three members of Halden's security-guard chorus recently competed on Norway's version of American Idol.


    Prison Yard
    Halden's architects preserved trees across the 75-acre site to obscure the 20-ft.-high security wall that surrounds the perimeter, in order to minimize the institutional feel and, in the words of one architect, to "let the inmates see all of the seasons." Benches and stone chessboards dot this jogging trail.


    Norway's prison guards undergo two years of training at an officers' academy and enjoy an elevated status compared with their peers in the U.S. and Britain. Their official job description says they must motivate the inmate "so that his sentence is as meaningful, enlightening and rehabilitating as possible," so they frequently eat meals and play sports with prisoners. At Halden, half of all guards are female, which its governor believes reduces tension and encourages good behavior


    Norwegian inmates lose their right to freedom but not to state services like health care. Dentists, doctors, nurses and even librarians work in the local municipality, preventing a subpar prison standard from developing. On-site, Halden boasts a small hospital and this state-of-the-art dentist's office.


    To help inmates develop routines and to reduce the monotony of confinement, designers spread Halden's living quarters, work areas and activity centers across the prison grounds. In this "kitchen laboratory," inmates learn the basics of nutrition and cooking. On a recent afternoon, homemade orange sorbet and slices of tropical fruit lined the table. Prisoners can take courses that will prepare them for careers as caterers, chefs and waiters

    Read more: Inside the World's Most Humane Prison - Photo Essays - TIME
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    Elite Member Osakan's Avatar
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    I so wish I lived in Norway.
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    Elite Member Sarzy's Avatar
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    If it works for them then fair enough. I think this goes a bit too far, but I'd rather somewhere be humane than not.

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    Elite Member Karistiona's Avatar
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    I personally think this is the way to go, prison should of course be confinement and punishment, but it should also be about rehabilitating prisoners - the vast majority of whom will be released back into the community.
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    Super Moderator Tati's Avatar
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    I know a lot of people will object to this, but the way I see it is, it's one prison, in one country, and we certainly can't say with certainty that harsher environments work better. IMO, this is, if nothing else, a worthy experiment.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    I sure hope Brevik doesn't end up here. He deserves to do his time breaking rocks in a quarry in the hottest part of Libya.

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    Elite Member sputnik's Avatar
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    I'd like to know what the recidivism rates are in Norway as opposed to the US and other counties with harsh, punitive as opposed to rehabilitative prison systems.

    I personally think this is the way to go as well. And I say this not because I care so much about prisoners' rights but pragmatism and self-interest: most prisoners will be released into the general population and I would rather they come out better than when they went in. Prison systems also say a lot about societies as a whole and what values are prioritised. If you look at the social justice and equality levels of countries with so-calles 'soft' prison systems vs. the hardliners, it all becomes quite clear. Violence and recidivism levels are usually lower as well.
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    Elite Member Sarzy's Avatar
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    Apparently prisoners have to apply to get sent to this prison. So I doubt the worst of the worst get to go there.

    Sputnik - Norway's recidivism rates are 3 times lower than the US.
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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarzy View Post
    Sputnik - I googled and found Norway's recidivism rates are 3 times lower than the US.
    Nobody wants to go out and commit crimes when it's 20 below outside!!!

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    Elite Member Air Quotes's Avatar
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    Well if I ever end up destitute i'm gonna go there and rob a bank. If I get away with it, hot damn, if not at least I'll live in semi luxury.
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    Elite Member Bluebonnet's Avatar
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    A recording studio? Really?

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    Elite Member Sarzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MohandasKGanja View Post
    Nobody wants to go out and commit crimes when it's 20 below outside!!!

    Well whatever it is that Norway do they're doing something right to have such low crime levels in the first place.
    Most of our sentencing in the UK is pretty lenient and our prisons aren't hotels but they're not as tough as the US ones, but we still have high levels of re-offending.

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    Elite Member MohandasKGanja's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarzy View Post

    Well whatever it is that Norway do they're doing something right to have such low crime levels in the first place.
    Most of our sentencing in the UK is pretty lenient and our prisons aren't hotels but they're not as tough as the US ones, but we still have high levels of re-offending.
    My wife has an aunt and two cousins who live there. And my FIL went over to visit them six months or so back. Apparently, it is a gorgeous, progressive country. I'm envious. But not of the cold.
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    Elite Member Aella's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tati View Post
    I know a lot of people will object to this, but the way I see it is, it's one prison, in one country, and we certainly can't say with certainty that harsher environments work better. IMO, this is, if nothing else, a worthy experiment.
    Quote Originally Posted by sputnik View Post
    I'd like to know what the recidivism rates are in Norway as opposed to the US and other counties with harsh, punitive as opposed to rehabilitative prison systems.

    I personally think this is the way to go as well. And I say this not because I care so much about prisoners' rights but pragmatism and self-interest: most prisoners will be released into the general population and I would rather they come out better than when they went in. Prison systems also say a lot about societies as a whole and what values are prioritised. If you look at the social justice and equality levels of countries with so-calles 'soft' prison systems vs. the hardliners, it all becomes quite clear. Violence and recidivism levels are usually lower as well.
    Yeah, I agree with both of you. I don't think that all criminals can be rehabilitated, but the ones than can should, and it beats a prison system where one is confined for some non-violent offense and comes out a hardened criminal.

    Having said that, hot damn, those cells are nicer than the flat I'm living at right now in London!
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    Bronze Member Esco's Avatar
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    I dont know if they still have it, but the Amsterdam prison in Holland used to have its own beer brewery where inmates could brew their own beer

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