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Crimcast is a virtual resource devoted to critical conversations about criminology and criminal justice issues. Our blogposts, twitter feeds, podcasts and other content provide an overview of trends, research, commentary and events of interest to criminal justice practitioners, academics and the general public. CrimCast is sponsored by The Center for Crime and Popular Culture, St. Francis College, Brooklyn, NY.

Bastoy Prison in Norway: A Humane Example of Incarceration

Nickie Phillips

Ana Luisa Crivorot, Guest Blogger

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Imagine being on a beautiful island, in a bungalow where you have your own room with a laptop and television. You can sunbathe, jog, ride your bike, or take care of the farm animals. If you so wish, you may attend class, visit a well-stocked library, or earn any degree you desire. It sounds pretty idyllic, doesn’t it? To many it may actually sound like the perfect vacation. This all can be found in Bastoy an island in Norway. But Bastoy is not a college campus or a vacation resort, it is actually a prison.

Norwegian prisons are very humane and follow a high standard of living. Inmates have their own rooms, and have multiple opportunities to work, learn, or simply relax. Their accommodations are much nicer than most New York City apartments and their living standard infinitely times better than that of an average citizen in some developing nations. Your instinct may be that this all sounds too nice for someone serving a prison sentence, after all, this doesn’t sound too punishing does it? Even Anders Breivik, who massacred 77 individuals, mostly youths, in the summer of 2011, is eligible to move there after a portion of his sentence is completed. But, he must show repentance and a desire to rehabilitate himself in order to have that option. At the current moment Brevik has a three room suite in prison, equipped with his own small gym.

The official policy of the corrections system in Norway is that the only punishment to inmates should be the loss of liberty. Their day-to-day lives are supposed to be as close to the outside as possible and human rights are also a priority. Norway’s maximum prison sentence is twenty-one years, so it is understandable why preventing recidivism is a priority. Norway has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world, 20%, comparable only to a few other Scandinavian countries. Bastoy’s recidivism rate is even lower, at 16%. Its residents include murderers and rapists, but prison officials insist that they are being taught responsibility and to care for themselves and others. Norway’s incredible recidivism rate should be enough to convince many of the merits of such a system.

This is the second of two Crimcast blog posts exploring prisons in Norway.  See also Valeriy Kipelov's post on Norway's approach to prisons and punishment here.

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Ana Luisa Crivorot is currently pursuing a Master's in International Crime Justice at John Jay College in New York City. She graduated from New York University with a double major in Psychology and Politics and hopes to pursue a career in Law Enforcement. Ana is originally from Brazil and is fluent in Portuguese and Spanish.