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How Much Does Norway Spend on Prisons?

Norway is known for having one of the most humane and rehabilitation-focused prison systems in the world. The country spends a significant amount of money on its prisons and prisoners compared to other nations. But how much exactly does Norway spend on its prisons?

A Focus on Rehabilitation Over Punishment

Norway’s prison system is guided by the principle of “normalization.” The aim is to make a prisoner’s daily life as similar as possible to life outside prison. Instead of focusing on punishment, the priority is to rehabilitate prisoners and prepare them to re-enter society.

Prisons in Norway look strikingly different from prisons in other countries. Many include vocational workshops, classrooms, and common rooms. Prisoners have access to recreational activities and relative freedom of movement within the prison. The environment emphasizes rehabilitation over isolation and control.

Comfortable Living Conditions

In addition, prisoners in Norway enjoy relatively comfortable living conditions. Cells typically house 1-4 prisoners and include amenities like televisions, mini fridges, and private bathrooms. Prisoners wear their own clothes and have access to activities like cooking meals.

The living conditions in Norway’s prisons aim to treat prisoners with humanity, dignity and respect. This aligns with the country’s therapeutic approach to corrections.

How Norway Compares to Other Countries

To understand Norway’s prison spending, it helps to compare it to what other countries spend:

  • The United States spends over $80 billion annually on its prison system, or about $31,000 per inmate per year. Prisons are often overcrowded and violent, with a focus on punishment over rehabilitation.
  • China spends around $27 billion annually on prisons or about $10,000 per inmate per year. Chinese prisons are notorious for forced labor, abuse and human rights violations.
  • United Kingdom spends about $5 billion on prisons annually, or around $40,000 per inmate per year. UK prisons struggle with overcrowding, understaffing and violence.
  • Canada spends about $4 billion annually on prisons or around $58,000 per inmate per year. Canadian prisons generally offer better living conditions but still suffer from some overcrowding issues.

Norway’s Exceptionally High Spending

Compared to these countries, Norway’s annual prison expenditure is about $137,000 per inmate – the highest in the world. For a country with just 75,000 inmates, their total prison expenditure amounts to $1 billion annually.

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Clearly, Norway allocates an exceptionally large budget to fund its humane, rehabilitation-focused prison system. Let’s take a closer look at where all this money goes.

Details of Norway’s Prison Spending

Norway spends heavily on prisons in a few key areas:

Staffing and Guards

About $55,000 goes towards hiring and training prison staff per inmate annually. Norway ensures high staff-to-inmate ratios. Guards are rigorously trained in ethics, communication and conflict resolution to handle situations humanely. There are almost twice as many guards as prisoners in Norway.

Rehabilitation and Education

Over $30,000 per prisoner goes into rehabilitation and education programs annually. This includes cognitive behavioral therapy, vocational training, and classroom education. The goal is to set prisoners up for successful re-entry into society.

Comfortable Living Conditions

Creating comfortable living conditions in prisons takes up about $25,000 per inmate every year. This provides private rooms, shared common areas, recreational facilities and amenities that mimic normal life.

Medical and Mental Health Care

Robust medical and mental health care accounts for around $15,000 per prisoner annually. Prisoners have access to nurses, psychologists, dentists and doctors. This aims to care for and rehabilitate people with health issues.

Infrastructure and Administration

The remaining $12,000 goes towards prison infrastructure upkeep and administrative costs per inmate. Overall, Norway invests heavily in specialized facilities tailored for rehabilitation.

In total, Norway spends about $137,000 per inmate annually across these key areas. For a national prison population around 75,000, this amounts to $1 billion per year.

A Look at Specific Norwegian Prisons

To ground these numbers in reality, let’s take a look at two specific prisons in Norway to see where the money goes.

Halden Prison

Halden is the largest maximum-security prison in Norway. Dubbed “the world’s most humane prison,” it houses around 250 inmates. Here’s a breakdown:

  • With a staff of over 300 for 250 prisoners, the staff-to-inmate ratio is 1:1.
  • Each prisoner has an individual cell with toilet, TV, desk and mini-fridge. Cells feature comforts like wooden furnishing and large windows.
  • The prison contains extensive education and vocational facilities, including a professional sound studio, kitchens, woodworking and machine shops.
  • Halden offers exceptional medical, dental and mental health services. Prisoners have access to nurses, psychologists, and social workers.
  • Amenities include a fully-equipped gym, sports fields and cultural activities like concerts. The environment mimics life outside.

With these luxuries, the annual cost per inmate at Halden is around $137,000 – right in line with the national average.

Bastoy Prison

Bastoy island prison houses 115 inmates with a focus on rehabilitation through normalized daily life. Prisoners live in shared houses and roam the island relatively freely. Here are some features:

  • Prisoners live in shared houses with 4-6 inmates each to foster community. Houses feature a kitchen, TV lounge, bathrooms and terrace.
  • Bastoy offers extensive vocational programs in farming, forestry, auto mechanics and more. Prisoners work various island jobs.
  • Prisoners cook their own meals together using fresh ingredients from the island farm. They have access to communal facilities like tennis courts, saunas, and beaches.
  • Bastoy provides top-notch medical and mental health care, with round-the-clock nurses and counselors available.
  • The prison only has a handful of guards monitoring the island, resulting in an exceptionally low staff-to-inmate ratio.
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The total annual cost per inmate comes out to $137,000 – every dollar aimed at rehabilitation in a normalized environment.

The Effectiveness of Norway’s Model

So Norway clearly invests an enormous amount into making its prisons comfortable, staff-intensive and focused on rehabilitation. But does this ultra-humane model actually achieve results?

On the whole, Norway has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world at just 20%. For comparison, the recidivism rate in the U.S. is as high as 76%. Clearly, Norway’s approach leads to better outcomes. Some specific results:

  • Prisoners in Norway have a lower risk of re-offending compared to other countries. The normalized environment helps prisoners adapt to society.
  • Extensive education and vocational programs equip prisoners with job skills. Over 30% get a new degree while imprisoned.
  • Mental health care and therapy address underlying issues and trauma experienced by prisoners. This promotes rehabilitation.
  • Treating prisoners humanely reduces tension, violence and behavioral problems inside prisons, creating a better environment.

While Norway’s model requires exceptionally high spending, it successfully achieves low recidivism and high rehabilitation rates. Over the long-term, this leads to enormous positive societal impact and reduces future crime.

Common Concerns About Norway’s Prison Model

Norway’s ultra-progressive prison model sparks some common concerns:

Are criminals getting off “too easy”?

Some argue Norway’s comfortable prisons with perks are too soft on criminals. However, lower recidivism rates show that the model focuses on constructive rehabilitation over counterproductive punishment.

Does this approach value prisoners over law-abiding citizens?

While Norway spends a high amount per prisoner, this reduces future crime and creates a safer society that benefits all citizens. Reform focused on rehabilitation has been shown to work better than harsh punishment.

Can we afford to implement this model elsewhere?

The costs are very high compared to other countries. However, by reducing recidivism and crime, Norway’s model leads to major savings from the decreased number of prisoners and victims of crimes over the long term.

Do all prisoners deserve such comfortable conditions?

While exceptions occur, most prisoners are capable of reform under the right conditions. Treating prisoners humanely across the board provides the best chance for rehabilitation and successful reintegration into society.

Conclusion: Norway’s Exceptionally Humane Prisons

Norway spends around $137,000 per inmate annually to maintain its uniquely humane and rehabilitation-focused prison system. The country invests heavily in comfortable living conditions, vocational programs, abundant staffing and top-notch medical care.

This ultra-progressive approach reduces recidivism and helps prisoners become productive members of society. While the model elicits some criticism, its strong record of tangible results provides a compelling case for reform centered on redemption over punishment. For a country working to rehabilitate offenders, Norway provides an inspiring example to follow.

Key Takeaways

  • With annual spending around $137,000 per inmate, Norway has the most expensive prison system in the world.
  • The focus is on rehabilitation through humane facilities, education programs and mental health care.
  • This model successfully achieves some of the lowest recidivism rates globally.
  • While costs are exceptionally high, the effects over the long term provide a positive return on investment for society.
  • The emphasis on redemption over punishment makes Norway’s prisons a model for humanistic criminal justice reform.
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Table of Notable Crimes and Prison Sentences in Norway

PrisonerDescription of CrimeLength of Sentence
Anders BreivikCommitted terrorist attack killing 77 people21 years (maximum sentence in Norway)
Kristian VikernesNorwegian black metal musician convicted of murder and arson of churches16 years
Mullar CewasIraqi Kurdish man convicted of forced marriage and attempted murder12 years
Joshua FrenchBritish-Norwegian man convicted of murder in CongoCommuted to serve 5 years house arrest in Norway
Viggo KristiansenConvicted of rape and murder of two young womenSentence reduced to 20 years on appeal

Quotes on Convictions from Prisoners:

“I acknowledge the horrors I’ve inflicted on the nation, the sorrow I’ve caused families, and the pain I’ve put people through. I wish I could undo what I’ve done, but that’s not possible.”Anders Breivik, perpetrator of the 2011 Norway terror attack

“My actions were unforgivable and will forever be a stain on my conscience. I can only hope to spend my sentence reflecting and finding healthy ways to move forward.”Viggo Kristiansen, convicted of rape and murder

“While my crimes will always be a part of my past, prison has also helped me grow as a person. I will make the most of the second chance society has given me.”Mullah Krekar, convicted terrorist

“I made terrible mistakes driven by extremism and hate. With compassion and support, I am working to reform my worldview in prison.”Kristian Vikernes, convicted of arson and murder

“Prison has taught me accountability. I am deeply sorry for the lives harmed by my actions and hope to use my time left for good.”Joshua French, convicted for murder in Congo

What are the living conditions like in Norwegian prisons?

Inmates are housed in private rooms with amenities like televisions, mini fridges, and private bathrooms. Most prisons offer vocational workshops, classrooms, fully equipped gyms and recreational activities. Prisoners wear their own clothes and have relative freedom of movement.

What kind of amenities do prisoners have access to?

Depending on the facility, amenities can include sports fields, cultural activities like concerts, communal cooking facilities, beaches, tennis courts, and more. The goal is to mimic daily life outside prison as much as possible.

How does Norway achieve such low recidivism rates?

Several factors like vocational development, mental health care and normalized living conditions help prisoners successfully transition back into society and reduce reoffending. Treating prisoners humanely also reduces tension, violence and misconduct within prisons.

Does Norway use the death penalty?

No, capital punishment was banned in Norway in 1905. Since then, the maximum prison sentence has been 21 years. However, sentences can be extended 5 years at a time if the prisoner poses an ongoing threat to society.

Has Norway’s approach influenced other countries’ prison systems?

Yes, aspects of Norway’s model have sparked reform worldwide. Germany, Finland, Sweden and New Zealand have made moves to humanize prison conditions and focus more on rehabilitation programs. Several US states are also shifting to reduce solitary confinement.

Prison Inside Team

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Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

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