Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer sends his translation from an article in VG.no. about the utopian prison, Bastøy. Our translator includes his own observation:
This article gives you a good insight into the prevailing mentality found among the Norwegian elite. It’s a proper example of logic and reasoning from this northern ‘la-la land’.
Notice that the so-called ‘experts’ are very positive towards the ideas promoted in this article. It’s also worth keeping in mind the Norwegian TV documentary Hjernevask, which brilliantly exposed how far removed from reality a lot of these ‘researchers’ and ‘experts’ are.
Maybe even Breivik will be transferred to Bastøy sometime in the future?
Oh, by the way: “Bastøy is an island surrounded by idyllic scenery in the Oslo fjord.”
The Observer also sent along a link to this video about life on Norway’s version of Alcatraz. It was uploaded on MRCtv in March 2011, when Breivik was still in the planning stages:
The person who uploaded this video is puzzled:
This is just beyond parody. I mean the idiot running the place literally says “We had a chainsaw murderer here on the island. Eventually he was allowed to work in the forest with a chainsaw”. What is wrong with the people of Norway?
Well, beyond a bad case of terminal self-righteousness, Norway is a very small, very isolated and homogeneous country. Its small size and its oil wealth permit it to run a variety of experiments in social psychopathology, whether it be in education, healthcare, or parenting. These utopian schemes are neither possible nor practical in a huge, polyglot federation like the United States – much as our leftists want to resurrect Rousseau here, also. For our polarization and public strife let us be thankful.
It was the ‘compassion’ of Norway’s elites that led them to foist upon their own citizens hordes of unassimilated resentful immigrants. Dealing with these foreigners themselves was never part of their plan; things might never have been exposed had not Breivik’s murderous acting-out upon their own children brought home so forcefully an unintended consequence of ignorant, arrogant do-goodism.
And now, on to the paean to Norwegian penology from the perspective of VG.no:
Here Mr. Sandberg is shown a video of prisoners having a barbecue: “This is a concept that we should embrace.”
Parliament (VG Nett) — Parliamentarian politician Mr. Per Sandberg of the FrP (the progress party) believes that the open prison on Bastøy is a concept that the correctional services in Norway should embrace.
Last Tuesday VG wrote about the inmates at the prison at Bastøy who have built their own little society with all the institutions and recreational activities that can be found on the outside.
The TV channel MAX followed the lives of the inmates over a three day period in the TV documentary “Insider”.
The FrP and Mr. Sandberg have been staunch supporters of tougher prison conditions, but he smiles when he sees the prisoners at Bastøy having a barbecue.
“I think it is very positive. Here we have a situation where optimism is created and the criminals are given a chance to adjust to normal life. Statistics also show that these types of prison conditions lead to fewer escape attempts and fewer repeat offenders — and the community benefit from this,” Sandberg says to VG Nett.
He believes that the prison on Bastøy is ideal for criminals convicted of serious crimes.
“Here the prisoners enjoy a high degree of freedom, but at the same time they are isolated from the rest of society. I believe that most people want serious criminals to be mentally prepared for life in a law-abiding society,” Sandberg says.
“The way criminals serve their time should be tailored to each individual offender, but I think we should focus more on open prisons,” he adds.
Shadow Minister of Justice from the Conservative Party (Høyre) André Oktay Dahl can reveal that there is a broad consensus in Parliament for such criminal rehabilitation centers and that the prison on Bastøy is an example to follow.
“We are primarily concerned with the fact that those who return to society must decide to become law-abiding citizens. The entire Parliament is positive to the concept behind Bastøy, with the assumption that the prisoners are individuals that are to be reintroduced back into Norwegian society upon their release,” Dahl says.
Lack of space in Norwegian prison
Overcrowding of prisons has been an issue in Norway for many years — especially in the eastern part of the country. Dahl believes the government’s goal of lowering the number of re-offenders may be hampered by capacity problems.
“The main challenge is that Norwegian prisons are getting more crowded, fewer prison guards are graduating from the prison academy and existing prison guards are leaving their jobs. As a consequence it will be harder to implement the government’s plan to reduce the number of re-offenders. However we need to implement measures similar to those found on Bastøy in order to achieve this,” Dahl says.
In the government report “Punishment that works” — on prison policies from 2007, one of the goals is to eliminate prison queues.
This will be achieved through a capacity plan, according to representative of the Justice and Emergency Services, Paul Lønseth.
“This plan will be implemented within a month or two. We do have capacity issues, but this also means that the police are doing a good job. Prison facilities have increased in number in recent years, but we have also seen a dramatic increase in foreign prisoners. We need to have a master plan in order to face these challenges,” Lønseth says.
“Do you believe that foreign criminals are attracted by Norwegian prison conditions?”
“I don’t believe the criminals think along those lines — I believe that they primarily focus on the risks of getting caught and losing the proceeds of their criminal endeavors,” Lønseth says.
A parliamentary politician from the conservatives, Mr. Dahl however believes that softer prison conditions like those found on Bastøy can result in criminals not seeing prisons as a sufficient deterrent.
“It’s a problem that prisons don’t work as a deterrent for some criminals. It may even attract more foreign criminals, so I await the announced capacity plan, which will hopefully reduce prison queues — and ensure that the criminals receive a proper reaction from society,” Dahl says.
“Bastøy is the right answer”
The philosophy behind the new approach is supported by Jane Dullum, researcher at the Department of Criminology at the University of Oslo.
“I think this is a good crime prevention policy. The most important thing is that the criminals are able to adapt to a law-abiding society. The government should therefore invest more heavily in open prisons à la Bastøy — this is definitely the way to go,” Dullum says.
The question remains, “to go where, exactly?” Hard to say when you’re trotting so hard down the Road of Good Intentions.