Halden Fengsel, Norway’s second-largest prison, is a facility that emphasizes respect and focuses on the rehabilitation of its inmates. The prison opened in 2010 and although considered a high-security prison, it has no conventional security devices. Moreover, Norway has the lowest recidivism rate in the world, at about 20 percent, suggesting that preparing prisoners for life outside prison is a successful strategy to thwart repeat offenders.
A strong social network is an integral part of the prison’s success. Inmates and officers commingle, sharing meals and conversation together, and a chaplain is available to listen to prisoners’ concerns. In addition, classes and coursework are available to residents to help prepare them for the workforce once they are released. Examples include auto mechanic skills, food preparation and tech classes. Group recreational activities like monopoly, chess, basketball, gardening and more take place in well-designed, modern settings.
Other countries, including the U.S., have taken notice of the positive outcomes resulting from the programs at Halden prison. In fact, prisons in North Dakota have be implementing programs based on Halden’s model, with hopes that the number of repeat offenders in the state and beyond will trend downward.