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originally posted by: gription
a reply to: crazyewok
They all enter through police action. A small amount is spontaneously adjudicated, but any reform needs to start from the point of initiation.
That makes Norway's incarceration rate just 75 per 100,000 people, compared to 707 people for every 100,000 people in the US.
On top of that, when criminals in Norway leave prison, they stay out. It has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world at 20%. The US has one of the highest: 76.6% of prisoners are re-arrested within five years.
Based on that information, it's safe to assume Norway's criminal justice system is doing something right. Few citizens there go to prison, and those who do usually go only once. So how does Norway accomplish this feat? The country relies on a concept called "restorative justice," which aims to repair the harm caused by crime rather than punish people. This system focuses on rehabilitating prisoners.
Take a look at Halden Prison, and you'll see what we mean. The 75-acre facility maintains as much "normalcy" as possible. That means no bars on the windows, kitchens fully equipped with sharp objects, and friendships between guards and inmates. For Norway, removing people's freedom is enough of a punishment.
Like many prisons, Halden seeks to prepare inmates for life on the outside with vocational programs: woodworking, assembly workshops, and even a recording studio.
In general, prison should have five goals, as described by criminologist Bob Cameron: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation. In his words though, "Americans want their prisoners punished first and rehabilitated second."
Norway adopts a less punitive approach than the US and focuses on making sure prisoners don't come back. A 2007 report on recidivism released by the US Department of Justice found that strict incarceration actually increases offender recidivism, while facilities that incorporate "cognitive-behavioral programs rooted in social learning theory" are the most effective at keeping ex-cons out of jail.
The maximum life sentence in Norway shows just how serious the country is about its unique approach. With few exceptions (for genocide and war crimes mostly), judges can only sentence criminals to a maximum of 21 years. At the end of the initial term, however, five-year increments can be added onto to the prisoner's sentence every five years, indefinitely, if the system determines he or she isn't rehabilitated.