Breaking the Cycle
Halden Prison is Norway’s most humane prison. It’s a maximum-security facility that houses 260 inmates and has a staff of 340. This prison opened in 2010. According to one inmate the idea is that they are at the prison as punishment for the crimes they committed and not in order to be punished for those crimes. By taking on this perspective the element of anger and revenge is done away with, unlike prisons in the United States.
At Halden the goal is to maintain normalcy. They want the prison to reflect as much of society as possible. This guarantees that inmates adapt quicker to life outside once they have been released.
The director of Halden visits Attica Correctional facility to encourage a more humane way for treating those who are deprived of their freedom. For him, a prison guard not only has the task of making sure everybody is safe, they also need to remember that they are humans dealing with fellow humans. This creates an environment of trust and helps the inmates to improve their lives.
The approach used at Halden is called dynamic safety. In this approach the inmate is not seen as a criminal but as a human being who committed a crime. This allows respect and trust to become a part of the dialog. In Nordic countries the interaction between staff and inmates is vital. That’s not the case in the United States where the staff takes up a threatening position every time the inmates are nearby. The batons are always visible to signify that at the least provocation physical punishment will be used to subdue the inmate.
Another thing the director noticed at Attica was that the portions being served were not nutritionally enough for an adult male. According to an inmate at Attica, it can be very rough when you’ve had your last meal at 5 pm, you don’t have anybody supporting you so you can’t buy food at commissary, and your next meal is at 8am. Add a growling stomach to all the other personal issues inmates are dealing with, and it becomes a recipe for disaster.
At Halden, staff is trained to have a positive impact on inmates. They help them establish personal goals in order to be functional in society. Whereas at Attica each guard only focuses on getting the job done. Watch this thought-provoking film now.