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Thread: Crime and Punishment, Norwegian Style

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    Crime and Punishment, Norwegian Style

    There has been a lot of introspection in Norway in the year following the attacks carried out by Anders Behring Breivik.

    The country's justice system has been subject to intensive scrutiny, and foreigners might be forgiven for assuming that public opinion on crime and punishment had hardened.

    But according to the junior minister for justice, Kristin Bergersen, it has not.

    "I think the debate we are seeing in Norway right now establishes that we have the right values and the right system for punishment here," she says.

    Continue reading the main story

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    If this wasn't a prison, the Norwegian government could rent it out for holidays”- Morten, Inmate

    It is highly unlikely that Breivik will ever set foot on the prison island of Bastoey. Norway does have solitary confinement cells and high-security wings.

    But although it is only one, liberal, end of a penal spectrum, the open prison where inmates wander woods, fields and beaches unhindered is still an important symbol of the Norwegian system. Indeed, to many, it is the jewel in its crown.

    "Fundamentally, we believe you have to start with prisoner rehabilitation on day one," Ms Bergersen. "Everybody knows that when you are released in Norway you can be somebody's neighbour.

    "It is in the public interest, when it comes to security, that you receive rehabilitation when you are inside the prison system so that you can go out and lead the life that everybody else takes for granted."

    Bastoey might be seen as the softest option by some. Its inmates are among the most hardened criminals.

    Typically, they are serving long sentences - by Norwegian standards - for the most serious crimes.

    Murderers and sex offenders of many different races and nationalities are expected to live peacefully together in small chalets that dot the island.


    Prisoners are learning new skills


    'In training'
    Of course, prisoners who go to Bastoey are carefully selected. Often they are approaching the end of their sentence and release.

    In all cases, they are individuals who have decided they could benefit from the lifestyle.

    "It's difficult to say that I like being here," says Morten, a 29-year-old Danish man serving a sentence of nearly three years. "But I think if this wasn't a prison, the Norwegian government could rent it out for holidays.

    "You are not free, of course. If you tried to escape you would be put back in a normal prison immediately. But if you have to be in prison, this is a good place to be.

    "You can do almost whatever you want to. You can walk around the island, play football or hockey or go fishing. In the summer, we have our own beach and you can go there and enjoy the sun."



    I feel like I'm in training”Lamin, Inmate

    Morten is in the middle of a training session, learning how to cut planks of wood from the tree trunks he and others have felled in the forest.

    Next to him, Lamin, a 30-year-old originally from The Gambia, is wielding a large metal hook and a hammer, jamming the logs into position against a circular saw.

    "I used to be a boxer," he says. "I was angry every day, stressed. But since I've come here, I am calm and relaxed.

    "I feel like I'm in training - practical job training, but also training to be a better person. It's like a test they are giving me and when I go outside and try to live a normal life I will see if I have passed."

    The atmosphere on the island does seem relaxed, almost to the point of sleepiness. An occasional prisoner in jeans and sweatshirt cycles past fields of grazing sheep. There is not a raised voice.

    Domestic pride
    For the prison's governor, Arne Kvernvik-Nilsen, Bastoey is a personal project, the embodiment of an ethos in which he has the belief of the evangelical.


    "If this were a holiday camp for criminals, what's the problem if I can show you the result?" he asks.

    The result he refers to is a 16% re-offending rate among former Bastoey inmates. It is by far the lowest in Europe, quite possibly the lowest in the world.

    "This island is supposed to be as much as possible like an ordinary small, local Norwegian community. This prison is in many ways the opposite of an ordinary prison. Here, as an inmate, you have to be in charge of your own life, take responsibility.

    "I do not believe in this old way of thinking that you should respect me. In order for you to do this, you first have to learn to know what respect is, starting with respect for yourself. Then I can start to talk to you about why you should respect me and my neighbour and your neighbour too."

    It would be hard to attack the prison on grounds of expense. Bastoey is significantly cheaper to run than conventional penal institutions. Its proportion of guards to inmates is much lower.

    At night, it is normal for four or five unarmed guards to be in charge of 114 inmates. And costs are kept down by the fact that prisoners are expected to manage so many aspects of their own lives, from rubbish collection to cooking and cleaning.

    One tattooed inmate asks for a moment to comb his hair and change into a smarter shirt before he is filmed giving a tour of his living quarters with a touching sense of domestic pride.

    Asked if he can cook, he replies: "Of course. All Norwegian men can cook." The humanising effects of Bastoey have an unnerving tendency to speak for themselves.
    Source http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-18121914

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    Senior Member paraplethon's Avatar
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    You know, it sounds awfully like the system we used to have in place here... some 150-200 years ago. It likewise had rehabilitation at heart and had a low re-offending record.

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    There has been a lot of introspection in Norway in the year following the attacks carried out by Anders Behring Breivik.

    The country's justice system has been subject to intensive scrutiny, and foreigners might be forgiven for assuming that public opinion on crime and punishment had hardened.

    But according to the junior minister for justice, Kristin Bergersen, it has not.

    "I think the debate we are seeing in Norway right now establishes that we have the right values and the right system for punishment here," she says.
    I can't say I trust claims made by politicians about public opinion, they're not an impartial observer of society and are more than likely to provide anyone who asks with self-serving statements and "facts". But I won't rule out the possibility that she is correct, and that Norwegians are happy with their justice system. However, going by my own experiences from the Swedish debate on justice, the "debate" tends to be waged between liberals and socialists, as with any other issue, with little in the way of public input. The debates I hear in private are very different from the public ones, it was the liberals and socialists who built the justice system as it works today, they put up the framework and allowed the judges to spawn legal precedents which have meant that punishments have systematically been lowered towards the lower end up the punishment spectrum.

    Rehabilitation and short sentences have been the favored principles in the socialist/liberal justice system in Sweden. Since Norway also seem to follow this pattern, I wonder to what degree it is rooted in public consent and to what degree it is an elite product, worked out inside the parliament inbetween elections and without the public's participation or sense of justice in mind.

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    There has been a lot of introspection in Norway in the year following the attacks carried out by Anders Behring Breivik.

    The country's justice system has been subject to intensive scrutiny, and foreigners might be forgiven for assuming that public opinion on crime and punishment had hardened.

    But according to the junior minister for justice, Kristin Bergersen, it has not.

    "I think the debate we are seeing in Norway right now establishes that we have the right values and the right system for punishment here," she says.
    I'm in favour of introducing death-penalty in the Norwegian system. This is not due to the Breivik-incidence, though, as I've had this opinion for some years... Some criminals simply deserve to be hanged. I also see it as an insult towards women who are victims of assault-rapes (for instance) that the perpetrators are facing such short prison-sentences as we actually see time and again.
    "Man evolved in cooperating groups united by common cultural and genetic ties, and it is only in such a setting that the individual can feel truly free, and truly protected. Men cannot live happily alone and without values or any sense of identity…" - Alain de Benoist
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    Rehabilitation and short sentences have been the favored principles in the socialist/liberal justice system in Sweden. Since Norway also seem to follow this pattern, I wonder to what degree it is rooted in public consent and to what degree it is an elite product, worked out inside the parliament inbetween elections and without the public's participation or sense of justice in mind.

    I think it's a mix of that and the fact that murder is so rare in Norway that a lot of people there assumed that they would never have to deal with it before Breivik...well, of course this does not count the Muslims
    Let truth and falsehood grapple...truth is strong-
    John Milton

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