Designer Prison

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Image: justisdepartementet on Flickr

An interesting article in the Guardian from earlier this year describes Halden Prison, Norway.

Halden is amongst the highest security prisons in Norway, interns include rapists, murderers and paedophiles. Designed by Erik Møller Architects, the focus here is very much on aesthetics and experience rather than the pure functionality of confinement. Having gained a continually growing reputation as a one of the world most humane jails, Halden focuses on the rehabilitation of inmates as opposed to direct punishment.

The prison is a quiet place which has been consistently compared to a hotel, but as the article suggests this is a ridiculous comparison because the inmates aren’t on holiday, nor can they leave at will.

Cells are arranged in groups of 8, each with clean towels, toilet, shower, tv and designer fixtures and fittings. The overall aim of the architects was for the prison to be a light and positive place to inhabit. Along with the attention to detail in the design of the building, the rehabilitation programme is equally thought out, including work opportunities alongside education, music, crafts and team sport facilities.

Attacks on the guards here are virtually unheard of and they are given rigorous training to be coaches, mentors and role models for the inhabitants, further enforcing the emphasis on rehabilitation. In Norway life sentences are not given (with the possible exception of Anders Breivik), therefore there is motivation to change the attitudes of people incarcerated here, as they will eventually return to society.

All this of course does not come cheap; the cost per year to run this institution is double what a comparable prison currently costs to operate here in the UK. But although the inmates here are not happy to be in prison and the UK taxpayer would bolt at the facilities provided for ‘prisoners’, at least they might have the hope that a change in their lives is possible with an investment their eventual rehabilitation. This may prove to be the only feasible long term solution to address an aging population of which the imprisoned proportion cannot be sustainably accommodated through other methods.

More images can be seen at the Guardian