The World’s Most Humane Prison
I came across this prison in Norway, while reading an article about the confessed murdered, Anders Behring Breivik. There was speculation that he might be able to serve his time in one of the most enjoyable prisons out there. Although this was rumored, it is way more likely that he will be spending his days in the “Ila prison, which is less cushy than Halden, but still “a far cry” from the bare cells of American prisons.” In fact, this is where he currently has been spending time since his arrest, with little comfort. Breivik is in a cell with a toilet, table and chair. This seems more fitting than the prison that has become known as the most humane.
Yahoo – Halden Fengsel, opened last year outside of Oslo and houses around 250 male inmates.
The documentary photographer Alex Masi writes that the cells in Halden are equipped “with an en-suite bathroom, a flat-screen TV and various comforts. They measure 12 [square meters--about 129 square feet] and are divided up into units (10 to 12) which share a living room and kitchen,” much like a college dorm. Time Magazine described the cells as resembling an Ikea showroom, complete with “stainless-steel countertops, wraparound sofas and birch-colored coffee tables.”
The art budget for the facility came in at more than a million dollars, Masi says, while the cells are brightly painted and lack bars on the windows. Inmates take specialty cooking classes or choose from many other courses at an in-prison high school. They can jog around the 75-acre wooded facility or even climb on the prison’s rock walls.
According to Time, prison guards are required to help each inmate make his sentence “as meaningful, enlightening and rehabilitating as possible.” About half of the prison guards are women, since research has suggested that a corps of female guards can help reduce aggression among the prison population. The unarmed guards eat meals and play games with prisoners.
According to Raf Sanchez at the Telegraph, the region’s governor, Are Hoidal, said at the prison’s opening ceremony that prisons should focus on “human rights and respect.”
“We want to build them up, give them confidence through education and work and have them leave as better people,” he said.
Sanchez adds that only 20 percent of Norwegian prisoners return to jail within two years of their release, a very low recidivism rate. (For comparison, a 1994 study suggested that more than 60 percent of released prisoners in America were arrested again within three years, while 51.8 percent returned to prison. The U.S. rate of incarceration also dwarfs Norway’s.)
According to Foreign Policy’s Robert Zeliger, most murderers in Norway serve 14 years or less. A criminal may only be sentenced to 21 years before the government must evaluate him or her for release. Those still deemed a threat to society receive an addition five-year sentence before undergoing another evaluation. “Life without parole” is not an option.
Here are a few more (not all) of the photos, provided by TIME:
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