Monday, May 10, 2010

Random News Generator- Norway

It's Norway today on the RNG. Not long ago we explored the effectiveness of the death penalty in preventing crime in America, and reached the conclusion that it is not a deterrent at all.

Norway's penal system operates on that very principle, taken to the logical extreme: sheer punishment as a correctional device does not work, and that rehabilitation stands a much better chance of preventing recidivism. Enter the brand spanking new Halden Prison, recognized in today's article from the Digital Journal as the world's most humane prison.

These are not low-level offenders Halden takes in. They are murderers and rapists and drug dealers, just like you'd find in any high-security facility in America. Halden, however, gives them a jogging trail, a sound studio, a two-bedroom house for visiting family, a soccer field, a "kitchen laboratory", flat screen TV's. There are no bars. Prisoners are regularly asked how their prison experience can be improved. Guards don't even carry guns, on the theory that it just serves to antagonize.

And Halden gives them color. Grey, stark, spartan-looking facilities are what we know in America.

While grey still largely pervades, this is what Halden Prison looks like. Note the murals. If I didn't tell you that was a prison, you might think it was a high school. Maybe a college.

This is not how one would want to treat a murderer or rapist here. It's not "justice". We want to make the bastards pay for what they did. You don't want them in a prison that is literally a nicer place to live than the house in which I live voluntarily.

But does Norway's way work? Obviously, since Halden's only been open a month, you can't speak for it, but Norway knows what it's doing. Given a two-year window of recidivism, Norway's rate is 20%. The American rate- and the British rate- both hover between 50-60%. And Norway simply incarcerates fewer people- 69 people per 100,000 populate Norwegian prisons, as opposed to 753 per 100,000 in the US.

And this is the big question. A punishment-based incarceration is centered around a feeling of 'we'll make sure they never hurt anyone ever again'. But is it better that this be simply forced upon the inmate, or is it better to 'coddle' them and increase the odds that they no longer have any desire to hurt anyone ever again?

No comments: