Comfortable Norwegian prisons leading to rise in foreign inmates

Norway has seen the number of foreign inmates in its jails quadruple over the past 14 years, with many police officers and lawyers claiming the conditions are too nice.

In recent years, Norwegian prisons have earned the reputation of being extremely comfortable for inmates. Time Magazine described Halden prison the “most humane” jail in the world, while CNN reported that Bastoy was the “world’s nicest” prison and said it was even comparable to a summer camp.

On one side, defenders of Norway’s prison system claim that the good conditions have resulted in the Scandinavian country having Europe’s lowest reoffending rate – 30 per cent; however, detractors of the “cushy” jails claim that the opposite effect is the case with foreign criminals.

Recent data shows that the percentage of foreign inmates in Norwegian jails has increased from 8.6 per cent in 2000 to 34.2 per cent in May this year.

Foreign inmates, even if they have lived illegally in Norway prior to their arrest, are given the same rights as Norwegian prisoners, who can usually use computers and watch TV in their cells. Other benefits include access to religious and healthcare services and phone calls. In some cases, they are even given pocket money.

Lawyer Jostein Alvheim said that such nice conditions do nothing to deter foreign criminals as a prison sentence is not really off-putting to many.

Television station TV2 reported that some defence lawyers had even said their clients had smiled when given sentences in Norway, with a number admitting that the risk of committing the crime in the country was worth it.

Police lawyer Arne Fjellstad, in Bergen, said that one of the biggest problems is that criminals deported for crimes return to the country to commit more crimes. He explained that things are not developing as they should because more and more illegal immigrants are committing crimes.