Inside the world’s most humane prison

Can luxury prisons and a more humane approach to detention be a deterrent for crime in modern society? The answer lies in Halden, Norway.

Halden Prison is the newest prison in Halden, Norway. The prison was designed by Erik Møller Architects and received its first inmates March 1, 2010 but was officially opened on April 8 by the Norwegian King Harald V. The prison has a capacity of 252 prisoners.

In an article in Time Magazine, Halden Prison and the prison rehabilitation work were described. A cell includes amenities such as a television, a refrigerator, unbarred vertical windows that let in more light, and designer furniture. Prisoners share kitchens and living rooms every 10–12 cells, jogging trails, and a sound studio. There are cooking and music classes offered. Half the guards are women and guards are typically unarmed because guns “[create] unnecessary intimidation and social distance”. Prisoners receive questionnaires that ask how their prison experience can be improved.

The article says that although recidivism rates are calculated differently between countries, only 20% of Norway’s prisoners end up back in jail within 2 years (compared to 50%–60% in the UK and US).

Prisoner governor Are Hoidal was quoted as saying, “In the Norwegian prison system, there’s a focus on human rights and respect. We don’t see any of this as unusual.”


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