Norway is testing a new prison model which affords inmates relative luxury while they work toward their release (life sentences do not exist in Norway). “The buildings, designed by the Erik Moller Studio, are clean, bright and with a well-conceived repartition of space. At Halden, the individual cells measure 12 square meters, with a view out on the surrounding forest, and include a shower, toilet, refrigerator, desk and a flat-screen TV.” The library has 5000 books in 20 languages and 1200 DVDs. There are painting, sculpture, cooking, music and tagging workshops. The teachers make sure to talk about “students,” not prisoners.
What’s the Big Idea?
The Norwegian prison system believes that taking revenge on prisoners for their crimes, by taking away their rights, is counterproductive to the more important goal of rehabilitation. The system makes a distinction between taking away freedom and taking away rights. “In Norway, we do not follow the principal of revenge,” said Secretary of State Kersten Bergersen. “The real Norwegian model is more of a philosophy than a place. The philosophy where you are focused on the day you are going to get out from the moment you get in. It can be in a high-security prison or a low-security one.”