I took a look at a 30 minute documentary about prisons in Nordic countries (Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden). Four prisons were visited and the rehabilitation of inmates and their re-acclimation to society was emphasized.
They invited along James Conway, former superintendent of Attica Correctional Facility in New York. His presence juxtaposed the American prison ideals versus the Nordic ones.
Throughout the film, his attitude showed how American prisons are less of rehabilitation and more of punishment. The attitude which ultimately results in high rates of recidivism.
One of the prisons highlighted, Halden, in Norway is considered the world’s happiest prison. Inmate cells include a flat screen TV and mini-fridge. Inmates also have access to a fully stocked kitchen with utensils, various ingredients and drinking glasses. Items Conway immediately noted as potential weapons. It was more comparable to a dorm room than a prison cell.
For the most part, these places were totally different from the idea we have of prisons in the United States. Notably, Halden contained a library stocked with DVDs, a music studio, and the aforementioned kitchen.
It’ll be interesting to see if American prisons eventually adopt similar ideals as the prisons outlined in the film.
Take a look at the documentary below.