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News Link • Criminal Justice System

Norway's Island Prison For Violent Criminals Looks Like No Prison We've Ever Seen


Yet no barbed-wire-topped walls or electrified fences circle the island, nor do armed guards and attack dogs patrol the grounds. By all accounts, the island prison and its inhabitants live in peace, working together and sharing resources.

Bastøy Prison has been called one of the most liberal prisons in the world. Prisoners and guards work together, tending to farm animals and chopping wood for the winter months. They play cards, ski and play tennis, cook, and take classes. When 3 p.m. rolls around, most of the non-convicts head home, leaving only five guards to keep watch overnight.

The prison is so peaceful that filmmaker Michael Moore filmed on the island for his documentary, "Sicko," but didn't put it in the final cut, thinking no one would believe the place really existed.

Norwegian officials hope that Bastøy, an experiment now in its 32nd year, will rehabilitate prisoners, instilling values of responsibility, trust, leadership, and accountability. And it seems to be working, as recidivism rates for the prison are just 16%. (In the US, the five-year rearrest rate is more than 75%.)

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