Norway's Bastoy prison is one of the most progressive in the world in its ideology and practice toward prisoners. It advocates a philosophy of restorative justice rather than punitive measures. From the statistics, it seems that the philosophy is working. For example, in Europe recidivism is about 70 percent. In Norway, it's 20 percent, and for Bastoy, it's 16 percent. According to Bastoy's governor, Arne Kvernvik Nilsen: "If you treat a human as an animal, he (or she) will turn into an animal." In Bastoy, even the guards associate with the prisoners, and eat meals with them. There is a trust-based relationship between prison staff and prisoners, and it seems to, for the most part, work. I think we Canadians might have some things to learn from Bastoy prison.
For those interested, there are several films on Bastoy prison. Here are three recent ones. "Prison Island Bastoy," (2010), produced in the Netherlands by Michel Kapteijns and selected for the 24th International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, examines the rehabilitative philosophy in practice at Bastoy and explores the lives of some of the inmates there.
"King of Devil's Island" (Kongen av Bastoy, 2010), by Marius Holst, tells the story of Bastoy's early days as a boarding school and correctional institute. The film accompanies the exhibit "Bad Boy? Bastoy Boy's Home," which opened at the Norwegian Museum of Cultural History in December.
"From President to Parliament," (Presidenten fra Bastoy fengsel, 2008), directed by Charlotte Rohder Tvedt, tells the story of Peter O. Ranginya an Norwegian-Kenyan inmate at Bastoy prison convicted of embezzlement, who decides to run as a candidate in the Kenyan Parliamentary elections. The film follows Ranginya during his return to Kenya and documents the election and his hard work and optimism. [ This post is based on information from the May 2011 issue of Viking, the Sons of Norway magazine.]
You can also check out below this YouTube news report on Bostoy prison.