Tuesday, June 2, 2015

A Prison Built On Second Chances

 Photo of a Halden Prison cell from STR/Reuters /Landov

This past weekend NPR published a story about an unconventional prison in Norway. The maximum security prison in Halden, Norway houses murderers, rapists, drug smugglers, and in one prison operator's words "everything" else. However, like Bryan Stevenson, the prison's operators want to give the inmates a second chance. The prison's mission makes two things very clear. First, the prisoners are not bad people, they just did bad things. And second, the prisoners are not in prison to be punished, they are there to serve time. As one of the employees of the prison said:
Anybody can change their lives with the right kind of help, guidance, giving them a chance.
Prisoners have their own private cells furnished with a bed, desk, TV, and refrigerator. They are locked in their cells for 12 hours a day, compared to the 23 hours a day the would be locked in their cells for the same offenses in the United States. One inmate who was in the Halden Prison for murder, had this to say about why that kind of prison does not work:
If they lock me up 23 hours a day, if an officer come open my door, I kick his [butt], because why should I not? I'm locked up 23 hours a day anyway," he says. "But they treat me with respect, they give me opportunities and trust, and I want to show that I'm worthy.
The prison offers inmates a second chance with counseling, classes, and workshops to learn useful skills, like welding. However, if the inmates do not cooperate they are sent to more conventional prisons. So far this prison, focused on rehabilitation, has less than 30% of released prisoners commit crimes again.

To read or listen to the NPR story click here.

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