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Ear to the Ground

Go to Prison in Sane, Humane Norway

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Posted on May 19, 2012
mikecogh (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Unlike the usual jail cell pictured, rooms at the Halden prison more resemble a Scandinavian boutique hotel.

If you’re going to commit a jailable offense, do it in Norway, where officials at the high-security Halden prison believe that providing inmates with a “light and positive” environment will make them better people when they re-enter society.

Cells are painted in muted colors and offer a flat-screen TV, a private shower, a toilet and soft, white towels. Barless windows look out onto green landscapes. Staff mingle with inmates freely and violence, shouting and aggression are virtually nonexistent.

“We don’t think about revenge in the Norwegian prison system,” says facility manager Are Hoidal. “We have much more focus on rehabilitation.”

It appears that Anders Breivik, currently on trial in Oslo for the murders of 77 people in a terrorist rampage last summer, will not be housed at Halden.  —ARK

The Guardian:

“Everyone who is imprisoned inside Norwegian prisons will be released – maybe not Breivik, but everyone else will go back to society. We look at what kind of neighbour you want to have when they come out. If you stay in a box for a few years, then you are not a good person when you come out. If you treat them hard … well, we don’t think that treating them hard will make them a better man. We don’t think about revenge in the Norwegian prison system. We have much more focus on rehabilitation. It is a long time since we had fights between inmates. It is this building that makes softer people.”

Prisoners are unlocked at 7.30am and locked up for the night at 8.30pm. During the day they are encouraged to attend work and educational activities, with a daily payment of 53 kroner (£5.60) for those who leave their cell. “If you have very few activities, your prisoners become more aggressive,” Høidal says. “If they are sitting all day, I don’t think that is so good for a person. If they are busy, then they are happier. We try not to let them get institutionalised.”

The role of the prison guard is very different from that in the UK. While officers in Britain get a few weeks’ training, Norwegians will have completed a two-year university course, with an emphasis on human rights, ethics and the law. At Halden there are 340 staff members (including teachers and healthcare workers) to the 245 male inmates. Staff are encouraged to mingle with inmates, talking to them, counselling them, working with them to combat their criminality. A great deal of attention is given to making sure people have homes and jobs to go to when they leave, and that family ties are maintained. (There is a well-stocked chalet-style house for prisoners to receive overnight visits from their families.) “We have many more prison officers than prisoners. They are talking about why they are here, what problems got them into this criminality. Our role is to help them and to guard them. The prison governor role in Norway is unique. They are meant to be coach, motivator, a role model for the inmates.”

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Leefeller's avatar

By Leefeller, May 21, 2012 at 6:09 pm Link to this comment

After reading some of the comments here and the Homogenous comment by Surfboy not knowing of the comments accuracy, it seems immigration has been heavy and from what I found consists of 2 percent plus of the population, suppose this makes it Homogenous?  I found myself knowing very little about Norway which I find hypocritical being a person of Norwegian heritage, so I decided to do a bit of research and found some interesting things which may be hereditary? Maybe they should teach Norwegian history in school.

The following from; http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/norway-country-profile.html

“The Family”

“. Many families consist mainly of the nuclear family.
. Marriage is not a prerequisite to starting a family.
. Many couples live together without legalizing the arrangement with marriage. Therefore, it is best not to make presumptions about people’s marital status.”

Seems Gay marriage should not be an issue?

“Women”

“. Women are highly respected in business and generally receive equal pay and have access to senior positions.
. Norwegian women expect to be treated with respect in the office.
. Businesswomen are direct and can be skilled negotiators.
. Women may take up to one year’s maternity leave at 80% pay or 10 months at 100% pay.
. If a woman decides to stay home with pre-school children she receives a monthly stipend from the government.”

I know from a small bit of study, Vikings respected women even back then and women could own property if the husband died.

“Jante LawMap of Norway”

“The poet Aksel Sandemose put Jante Law into words and they convey an important element of Norwegian culture: humility. Jante’s Law teaches people to be modest and not ‘think big’. It is demonstrated in most people’s refusal to criticize others. Norwegians try to see all people as being on equal footing. They do not flaunt their wealth or financial achievements and look askance at those who do.”

“The tenets of Jante Law are:
. You shall not think you are special.
. You shall not believe you are smarter than others.
. You shall not believe you are wiser than others.
. You shall not behave as if you are better than others.
. You shall not believe that you know more than others.
. You shall not believe that you can fix things better than others.
. You shall not laugh at others.
. You shall not believe that others care about you.
. You shall not believe that you can teach others anything.”

Yes,.... I need to behave myself!

“Egalitarianism”

“. Norwegians view themselves as egalitarian people whose culture is based on democratic principles of respect and interdependence.
. They like people for themselves and not for what they do for a living their professional accomplishments or how much money they earn.
. They have simple tastes and are not prone to ostentation or excessive showiness.
. They pride themselves on being honest and sincere in their personal relationships.”

Pride in being honest seems important to me and now all of a sudden, so does the concept of excessive showiness, so I am getting rid of my Humvee!

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By gerard, May 21, 2012 at 3:39 pm Link to this comment

Mr. Garibaldi:  Please consider this:  It is not necessary to be Christian in order to be humane and to operate from a group consensus that is willing to acknowledge that 2 plus 2 does, indeed, equal 4.
What skews the picture is the money, honey, where 2 plus 2 is made to equal 200 by adding in a good hefty portion o class and race ugliness.

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By Mr. Garibaldi, May 21, 2012 at 5:10 am Link to this comment

Matthew 25:40

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

***

Norway must surely be the most Christian nation on Earth.  I just wish we’d stop thinking that we, by any standard, in the USA live in a Christian nation.

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By grokker, May 20, 2012 at 8:42 am Link to this comment

Felicity - Don’t concern yourself with giving “BrilliantBill” the shill his “references”. All that is needed is to look at the sheer number of things that are becoming illegal, and we will all be lawbreakers at some point in time. No need for the for-profit prison system to have repeat inmates when there is always a fresh supply of first time offenders.

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By grokker, May 20, 2012 at 8:31 am Link to this comment

One needs only to look at the prison here at home that we are incarcerated in before going to an actual prison. Garbage in—garbage out. America as a society can’t offer something that transcends an endless parade of manufactured wants and needs. Everything is for sale, with no means for most to get at it. What is there really to come back to for the average inmate?

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By balkas, May 20, 2012 at 7:09 am Link to this comment

the difference between norwegians [?et al] and/or their educated class of people and most americans, say, 98% of its
pop, is solely in THEIR RESPECTIVE THINKINGS or THOUGHTS.
eg, americans think that it’s an inalienable right to pursue own personal happiness, ultimate freedoms, independence
and norwegians do not.
personal freedoms in norway is not open-ended, its governance is by far more timocratic and/or democratic; ie, voting
being by far more effective than in u.s.
it is then the matter of going for ever greater personal freedoms in some aspects of daily living or not!
in norway and other places, personal right-freedoms to punish ‘bad’ people or treat them differently than ‘good’ people
is actually banned by law or at least considered negative in value for daily life of all people—-
in u.s, it is moral-legal imperative to treat ‘bad’ people badly. how ‘bad’ people became ‘bad’ is never considered, let
alone studied.
in u.s and many other lands YOU ARE BAD! and since the ‘badness’ to them is not a process-hapening, but ready-made;
in which WE ALL PLAY A ROLE; and there is no cure for ‘badness’, or witchcraft, you kill or mistreat ‘badness’ or burn at
stake the witchcraft.
ok, we do not burn ‘witches’ any longer, but the ANCiENT THINKING ABOUT ‘BADNESS’ is still with us. 
in short, we will continue to act according to how we think.

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By gerard, May 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm Link to this comment

After reading this, I had to come up for air because I was suffocating from sheer amazement. What can possibly account for such vast differences between the spirit and facts of prison life in Norway and in the United States?  Is our spirit so putrified with a couple centuries of violence, envy, hatred, fear and a desire for revenge?  Why do we continue to ignore the horrid condition of prison life at any level in this country and do nothing to change the fact that punishment here makes people worse—both those inside as well as outside.  And on top of all that, private corporations are milking the rotten system for billions! 
  Why do we delight in punishing each other brutally, both inside and outside of prison? Why are we content to endure the slimey growth of a police state? The answer begins to look very much like the revenge of a national guilty conscience punishing its entire population for unrecognized and unconfessed sins both of commission and of omission.
  We are due for a historical national self-examination and after that a mutual reconciliation.
  Note: Thankfully, the Psychologists for Social Responsibility are beginning to work on our national punishing traits, since Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have called it to their attention. But it will take all of us very soon becoming vastly more conscious of what we are doing and why we shouldn’t continue destroying ourselves and each other as we are.

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By BrilliantBill, May 19, 2012 at 3:51 pm Link to this comment

“Felicity,” please provide a reference for the study you are citing. Thanks.

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By diamond, May 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm Link to this comment

And while you’re contemplating the sanity and humanity of Norway just keep in mind that Breivik went to war to wipe all of it out. Nothing he did was insane, it was all calculated and carefully planned and was intended to destroy democracy and humanism and force Norway to adopt a fascist monoculture. It is also instructive that his attitude to Muslims and those who don’t hate and fear them is shared by many mainstream, ostensibly ‘respectable’, politicians in the United States.

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By felicity, May 19, 2012 at 12:01 pm Link to this comment

What a privatized prison system does not want is a
low rate of return of former inmates - therefore,
rehabilitation is a bad word.  Good for Norway, very
bad for a prison system which depends for profit on
being full at all times.

(By the way, and before privatization, a study of
American prisons revealed that painting the cells of
prisons a soft pink greatly lowered the number of
violent incidences in cells and in the prison in
general. I doubt that there is a prison cell in
America painted a soft pink.))

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