Mind Candy

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Halden Prison: The nicest prison in the world

Posted by mandyf on February 17, 2012

Nestled away in a cozy corner of Norway lies Halden Prison – the world’s most luxurious prison in the world. Everyone from the common criminal to the hardened murderer or rapist has the opportunity to call this in home. While not everyone in the global community necessarily understands the concept behind the prison – or accepts the concept even if they do understand it – the good folks running the show believe it is the prison of the future.

 Halden was hardly a slapped together pen made of concrete slabs, it is constructed of brick, galvanized steel, and larch. It took ten years to construct at a cost of around $250 million (USD). The description of the prison from TIME magazine reads as follows:

“The cells rival well-appointed college dorm rooms, with their flat-screen TVs and mini-fridges. Designers chose long vertical windows for the rooms because they let in more sunlight. There are no bars. Every 10 to 12 cells share a living room and kitchen. With their stainless-steel countertops, wraparound sofas and birch-colored coffee tables, they resemble Ikea showrooms.”

Inmates also have jogging trails, a sound studio, football pitch, cooking classes (actually educational opportunities of all sorts), rock climbing wall, gym, and a well appointed luxury library. There is even a nice little two bedroom house on the grounds so that inmates can have their families visit and stay the weekend – it is important they have their privacy after all.

What really gets most people though is that although there is a 20 foot high concrete retaining wall which is obscured by trees for cosmetic purposes, the prison has no bars and plenty of windows to let the light in and create a soothing environment. Guards don’t even carry guns because that could create an uneasy or hostile setting for the prisoners that retards their rehabilitation.

The idea is that by treating prisoners humanely – even if they were less than humane in regards to their victims – they can be rehabilitated and reintegrated into society. The big question is whether or not it works. That is the $250 million dollar question. Does their belief that prisons need to focus on human rights and respect actually translate to real rehabilitative change in criminals?

The U.S. State department statistics state that Norway already had a lower crime rate than the U.S. and most of Europe prior to Halden prison opening. Some think that if a prison is too luxurious some people may commit crimes just to go to prison – especially if your life is already headed down the tubes for financial reasons or even if someone is just too lazy to take care of them self.

Whether the Halden prison formula will work is unknown as it only opened fro Business in April of 2010. While Halden is boasting to the international community that there have been no escape attempts, much of that international community is responding “give it time.” There have been no attacks on guards and no scuffles of any import between inmates they further point out, but again the international community responds “give it time.”

If the Halden experiment does truly sow positive results in 15 or 20 years then maybe it should be a model more nations consider adopting. For now though the mix of common and violent criminals in an environment where guards have no guns and there are no bars not only seems terrifying to many corrections officers around the world, it seems unfathomable.

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2 Responses to “Halden Prison: The nicest prison in the world”

  1. You’re going to get some reactions to this post! Although I believe in second chances and definitely in rehabilitation and treating everyone humanely, it’s hard to accept such a wonderful prison while many of our elderly folk are in homes that offer far less than this. I’m not saying we shouldn’t treat prisoners well…just, perhaps, that we need to offer at least comparable support for our elderly and people with disabilities and mental struggles too. Now I bet that’s a comment you didn’t expect from me 🙂 Rhia

  2. sallykwitt said

    Go Rhia!!!!

    Amanda, great post. I agree, I wish that everyone could have dignity, respect, and opportunities in our society,

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