Wednesday, November 12, 2014

An American Warden Visited A Norwegian Prison

conway holden prison

This should remind us all that there is alternatives to draconian prison systems that serve us far better

Let me put it as simply as possible.  A criminal is acculturated to behavior patterns that do not fit in a civilized community.  These need to be changed completely and active application needs to be the central protocol.  That starts with persistent correction of language, attire and general comportment.

I may mean obedience training as well as is done in the military.  It may take time but at some point this individual may be ready to accept responsibility.  Better, this can all happen even if he is innocent of a particular crime.  This can be mandatory but not linked to criminal behavior at all.

This example is an extreme but it also sends us a clear message.  We really do not want an army of hardened criminals set upon us.

An American Warden Visited A Norwegian Prison, And He Couldn't Believe What He Saw

Retired superintendent James Conway is a 38-year veteran of the Attica Correctional Facility in New York. He spent none of that time pitying his inmates.

"It was your actions that put yourself here," he said, referring to the prisoners. "Who cares how they feel?"

Well, Conway experienced quite a shock when he visited Halden Prison, one of the newest correctional facilities in Norway. 

In an excerpt from a made-for-TV documentary called "The Norden," Jan Stromnes, deputy head of the prison, takes Conway on a tour of the premises — and he couldn't believe what he saw.

"I'm having a hard time believing that I'm in a prison," Conway said in the documentary, reported on by the blog Finansakrobat.

First, Conway (left) took a tour of the prison grounds. "Jan, it would appear that you've chosen to construct your prison in a forest and in a mountain area. Can you offer any explanation as to why that would be?" Conway inquired.

Halden prison forest

The architect suggested that the prison "keep as much of the nature as possible," Stromnes (right) explained. That way, inmates could serve under normal conditions — one of the key principles in the Norwegian prison system.

Conway had no response. 

Next, the team traveled to Unit C, a building with 84 inmates.

unit c holden prison

There, Conway learned that 10 inmates share a living room complete with a television,
dartboard, and ... knives for cooking.

living room holden prison

He looked sad and confused.


"I'm surprised to see metal silverware in a high-security facility," he said. "It's a very well-equipped kitchen."

silverware holden prison

Even the cupboards were stocked with dishes, porcelain ones to boot. "Very functional — however very sharp," Conway mused.

porcelain plates holden prison
At Halden, the inmates even have access to tools. 

 tools holden prison

"You don't have to bake 'em in a cake," Conway joked, holding a large file.

The presence of hangers in closets surprised Conway, too. He explained an inmate could fashion the top into an "ice-pick-type weapon." But "if there is a steel knife in the drawer around the corner, why would you need metal from a hanger?"

hanger holden prison

Aside from potentially unsafe objects, the Norwegian facility included downright luxury items, like an Xbox.

xbox holden prison

Oh, and a recording studio. 

recording studio holden prison

"I know there's a lot of education and vocational programmings to prepare inmates for work on the outside, but I must say I've never seen anything like this," Conway admits. "This may be a little over the top."

He wondered what kind of career a recording studio prepares inmates for. For example, he normally helps inmates learn woodworking or study for their GEDs.

Stromnes admitted that the recording studio does raise a lot of questions. The room functions as a part of the music teaching program at Halden, which officials hope will lead to less crime, he explained.

"Everyone is leaving ... prison one day," Stromnes said. "And we have to focus on life afterward."

Stromnes halden prison

 If Conway sat inmates at Attica down, he explained, and asked them to design the prison of their dreams, it would look a lot like Halden.

"This is prison utopia," he said. "I don't think you can go any more liberal — other than giving the inmates the keys."

Note the interior locks on the prison doors, below.

Halden prison

For some context, Norway has an incarceration rate of 70 per 100,000, totaling 3, 571 inmates for the entire country.

The US rate is more than 10 times Norway's — 707 per 100,000, or 2,228,424 people behind bars.

Watch the full excerpt below.

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