Norway Invests $240 Million in New Prison
(05/25/2010)

HALDEN, Norway — The government reaffirmed Norway’s commitment to promote rehabilitation over recidivism as corrections officials opened Scandinavia’s newest maximum-security prison.

The 290,600-square-foot Halden prison, which was designed by architectural firm HLM and Erik Møllers Architects AS, sits on 300 picturesque acres south of Oslo, on the southern border with Sweden.

The price tag for this state-of-the-art boutique facility that can house up to 252 offenders in an amenity-laden normative environment? The maximum-security complex — the second-largest in Norway — cost taxpayers almost $240 million.

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The Norwegian prison population averages approximately 3,000 inmates, out of a total national population of 4.5 million. However, the Ministry of Justice and Police maintains a primary focus on rehabilitation and invests heavily in changing inmate attitudes, thinking and behavior to support social re-entry and reduce recidivism.

“The intention behind the building is that the prison should maintain two mutually dependent opposites of atonement, ‘hard and soft,’ where the harsh represents atonement and the deprivation of liberty and the soft notion of rehabilitation,” says Are Hoidal, warden at Halden.

Inmate housing is divided into small pods of 10 to 12 single-occupancy cells anchored by a common living area, where inmates can prepare food and socialize in a communal setting. All cells incorporate en-suite bathrooms and are outfitted with flat-screen TVs.

The design team incorporated barless windows of reinforced security glass that offer inmates views of the outside and the surrounding countryside from all cells. Abundant natural light and a palette of soft, bright colors define interior spaces in the facility.

The outside recreation yard, located in the center of the complex, is surrounded by pine trees, while Norwegian graffiti artist Dolk created several oversized, corrections-themed murals. In total, authorities allocated nearly $1.5 million toward the artwork sprinkled throughout the prison.

The use of daylighting, positive colors, artwork and connectivity to the outside world are designed to help create a normative, pro-social environment in support of rehabilitation, officials say.

Inmates benefit from a range of educational, vocational and recreational amenities, including several workshops, a school and library, family visiting unit and chapel, outdoor sports fields and a gymnasium.

Vocational education and career development programming offers inmates the opportunity to study in a range of trade-related fields and gain professional qualifications to ready them for employment as they reintegrate into the community.

Expanding the job-skills-oriented facilities beyond those found in many correctional facilities, Halden prison also incorporates a fully equipped recording studio where inmates can gain technical training and practical hands-on experience with studio work.

Extending the tongue-in-cheek flourishes of the convict-themed murals, authorities installed a full-size climbing wall on one side of the gymnasium, where inmates can test their mettle and keep in shape rather than hatching plans to scale the facility’s 19.5-foot perimeter wall.

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