Norway helped remake a US prison. Here’s what happened.
Key Excerpts from Article on Website of Freethink
Posted: April 27th, 2023
Correctional systems throughout much of Scandinavia are guided by a general set of philosophical principles. In Norway, core values of safety, transparency and innovation are considered fundamental to the idea of creating normality in prison, the feeling that life as part of a community continues. Incarcerated people can wear their own clothes, work in jobs that prepare them for employment and cook their own meals. Cells in Norway are also for a single person – not multiple people, as in most cases in the U.S. Importantly, correctional officers have at least a two-year, university-level education and are directly involved in rehabilitation and planning for the incarcerated person’s re-entry into the world outside of prison. In the U.S., most officers receive just a few weeks of training. Recidivism rates in Scandinavia are low. In Norway ... less than half of people released from prison are rearrested after three years. In Pennsylvania, that figure is closer to 70%. In State Correctional Institution Chester, known as SCI Chester, a medium-security prison located just outside of Philadelphia, a correctional officer-guided team has worked since 2018 to incorporate Scandinavian penal principles into its own institution. Six men in SCI Chester – each sentenced to life in prison – were selected to participate. They then moved on to the new housing unit, which had come to be known as “Little Scandinavia.” SCI Chester shows that it is, in fact, possible to adapt Scandinavian-style penal philosophies.
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