Freedom reinvented. The example of Norway!

Halden, southeast Norway, near the Swedish borders.  A couple of men are sitting outside, to enjoy the sunny winter day. One of them is playing the guitar. Their friends inside are cooking lunch while the others attend a music lesson. This is not a winter holiday resort nor a college dorm. It is one of Norway’s prisons. Wait! What? Do the inmates enjoy so much freedom?  Yes, actually, they do. Not only in Halden prison but in most of the other prisons around Norway.

They are often called “IKEA prisons” because of the Scandinavian design furniture they have. They look amazing and it comes as a surprise how much trust the system has in the prison inmates. What harm can they do with the internet or a phone? Or by enjoying the fresh air or attending cooking and music classes? This is a non-conventional approach to freedom in Norway. How does that work? Is it effective?

Jail #not

Here is how prisons in Norway work. First of all, the maximum sentence is 21 years but on average the highest sentence given is approximately 14 years. And there are bonuses for those who complete one and two-thirds of their sentence. In the former case, they can get weekend parole (stay out of prison during the weekend), in the latter case they can get early release.

The rooms in the prisons are like college dorm rooms: nice bed, personal sheets, a shower, wardrobe, flat TV screen and computer with internet. Prisoners cook their own meals and take care of the prison but they also get to enjoy the outdoors and attend classes. There is a sense of trust. The system works in the direction of preparing them for their free life after prison rather than punishing them.

They say that treating the inmates as humans, make them behave like humans. Inmates have the same rights as free people. It is only that their freedom is restricted for a period of time. They also say that they prep inmates to be good neighbours, when released.

Open prisons?

There are open-campus prisons too. You know, where the convicts can keep their jobs and commute to the prison daily, after work. This type of prison is common in the Nordics. They say that the goal of being sent to prison is not to deprive all of the people’s freedom but to let them continue their life with limitations.

This system seems to work as stats show that only 1 in 5 former prisoners returns to jail in the future. Most of them are rehabilitated successfully and integrated into society.

And if you are in the Faroe Islands, sorry but there are no prisons. For serious crimes, the convicts are sent to prisons in Denmark.

Key takeaway:

A more free perspective on freedom can help things run smoother. Instead of punishment, there is trust. Trust brings responsibility and creates bonds that can help both the individuals and society.