Norway’s controversial ‘cushy’ prisons

Kyla Herrmannsen

Unconventional Bastoy Prison island, just off Oslo in Norway, has been criticised for being too ‘cushy’ and ‘luxurious’ with inmates enjoying the unprecedented use of saunas, sunbeds and deck chairs. On the other hand, it has been praised for treating prisoners like human beings and maintaining low rates of re-offending.

CNN described Bastoy Prison as a “summer-camp-like island prison” where “convicts hold keys to their rooms and there are no armed guards or fences.” The article, entitled ‘The world’s nicest prison’ also said of Bastoy: “plenty of people would pay to vacation in a place like this.”

Halden Prison, a maximum security prison also in Norway, is notably different from other prisons around the world. Labelled the ‘world’s most humane prison’, Halden features cells that are fitted with en-suite bathrooms, mini fridges and flat screen televisions. The prison reportedly spent roughly $1 million on paintings, photography and lighting installations to make the prison a more aesthetically pleasing environment to live in.

Norway’s approach to incarceration, rather than handing out punitive punishment, appears to be focused on only limiting prisoners’ freedom of movement – while trying to mimic the outside world as much as possible within prison walls. Testimony to this is the fact that none of the windows at Halden are fitted with bars.

Norway’s entire population is just slightly less than 5 million people, with the current prison population currently standing at less than 4000 people.

Norway does not have life sentences nor the death penalty – the maximum sentence an inmate can be legally made to serve is 21 years. According to justice officials, more than 89% of jail sentences in Norway in 2011 were less than a year long. Norways has a less than 30% re-offence rate – the lowest in the whole of Europe.

Read more about Norway’s unique incarceration techniques here:

Norwegian prison inmates treated like people

World’s most humane prison

Inside Norway’s progressive prison system

10 of the world’s most luxurious prisons




About witsjusticeproject
The Wits Justice Project combines journalism, advocacy, law and education to make the criminal justice system work better for all.

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