American prisons offer the finest in concrete and steel construction. But if you commit a criminal act in Norway and are sentenced to the country’s newest prison, you might find the accommodations better than the hotel room you were just occupying.
Norwegians have the advantage of a very low number of criminals, so the $252 million that they spent in creating Halden Fengsel allows them to “focus on human rights and respect,” facility governor Are Hoidal told Time magazine. That includes cooking courses for inmates, and a two-bedroom house for conjugal and family visits for a start.
While the 252-inmate prison is designed to house some of Norway’s toughest offenders, the philosophy in the Scandinavian country is that designing a penitentiary that approximates the real world will reduce recidivism, or the number of criminal offenses by repeat offenders. With a rate about one-half to one-third as high as the U.S., one is inclined to agree.
There are no bars on the windows in the cells, which come closer to studio apartments in providing flat screen televisions and refrigerators in every room. Inmates who decide to venture into the facility at large are able to take classes from Norwegian educators in a variety of the arts, including music and other fields.
Architects for the project, which was completed by AF Gruppen, wanted to diminish the effect of the necessary 20-foot-high walls, according to Gawker. So they planted trees near them and rounded the tops with concrete to reduce the prison-like visage of the facility.
We don’t advocate committing criminal activity anywhere, but Norway does seem to have a different culture of punishment than the United States. If you’re looking to travel there to see how these attitudes affect other aspects of life there, know that prices can be higher than they are in much of Northern Europe.