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Norway’s Halden Prison: A Humane Approach Works for Rehabilitation

Halden prison in Norway, close to the boarder near Sweden, is amazing: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1986002,00.html

Halden’s focus on how to treat imprisoned people humanely works to decrease repeat criminal behavior as illustrated in its 20% recidivism rate 2 years after release.

An interview with a man imprisoned at Halden affirmed the value of its humane approach. According to the man, Halden is a “fantastic” prison compared to the other 5 he has been in. He said he felt “safer” in Halden because the other imprisoned people are not angry and not hostile as they were in the other prisons he was in. There are less fights and people are all around friendlier at Halden. “Sure people have their bad days, but they don’t get violent here. If they do we will calm them down and let them know it is not the prison officers [guards] fault we are in prison!”

The man attributed this stark difference in attitude to the positive relationships that the imprisoned people have with the prison officers who call people by their names, eat with them, and do other things that show they regard those incarcerated humanely.

The man also said he has been able to cope and find “tomorrow is always another day no matter what happens in life” by concentrating on living in the present moment and not getting carried away by negative thoughts. While we talked he was busy baking a cake for the other 11 people in his dorm. They each have a small cell that is nicely furnished and includes small refrigerators & a bathroom.

There is also a special “guest house” at Halden where people with families and younger children can request to spend the night. This “carrot” for good behavior apparently helps because besides Halden’s low recidivism, the people working and incarcerated there, appear healthier and happier than I have ever seen in the many prisons I have visited, with the exception of the APAC prisons in Minas Garias, Brazil.

Halden also is expanding its restorative justice services for imprisoned people.

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