“You Don’t Change People By Power”: Grace in a Norwegian Prisonby R-J Heijmen on Feb 26, 2013 • 10:45 am 19 Comments
A thought-provoking article from the The Guardian about Norway’s prison island Bastoy, where inmates are treated like human beings (i.e. sinners in need of mercy) and which has the lowest recidivism rate in Europe (16%!). Don’t call it imputation, but apparently, grace works. A couple choice quotes:
From the warden, Arne Nilsen:
“In closed prisons we keep them locked up for some years and then let them back out, not having had any real responsibility for working or cooking. In the law, being sent to prison is nothing to do with putting you in a terrible prison to make you suffer. The punishment is that you lose your freedom. If we treat people like animals when they are in prison they are likely to behave like animals. Here we pay attention to you as human beings.”
A clinical psychologist by profession, Nilsen shrugs off any notion that he is running a holiday camp. I sense his frustration. “You don’t change people by power,” he says. “For the victim, the offender is in prison. That is justice. I’m not stupid. I’m a realist. Here I give prisoners respect; this way we teach them to respect others. But we are watching them all the time. It is important that when they are released they are less likely to commit more crimes. That is justice for society.”
From a prisoner:
“At 72, Vidor is the oldest prisoner on the island. He works in the laundry and is the house father of his four-man bungalow. I haven’t asked any of the prisoners about their crimes. The information has been offered voluntarily. Vidor does the same. He tells me he is serving 15 years for double manslaughter. There is a deep sadness in his eyes, even when he smiles. “Killers like me have nowhere to hide,” he says. He tells me that in the aftermath of his crimes he was “on the floor”. He cried a lot at first. “If there was the death penalty I would have said, yes please, take me.” He says he was helped in prison. “They helped me to understand why I did what I did and helped me to live again.”
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