October 2 2007

Sustainable Prison?

Norway has a sustainable prison! Yes the bucolic oil-rich Scandinavian Shangri-la has decided to do a 10 year test of a prison designed around their idea of "human ecology." Their philosophy stems from the notion that "living [within] an environment gives them [the inmates] individual responsibility, challenges, and demands [and] can motivate inmates to change their behavior."

The minimum security Bastoey Prison is located about 21 miles south of the Norwegian capital, Oslo, on an island some 1.5 miles from the mainland. Prisoners must apply to become one of the 115 inmates serving time on the island, and once accepted they remain there to serve out their sentence under no guard. The only buffer is the 1.5 miles of chilly Baltic sea water and the knowledge that should they be caught trying to escape, they will be returned to a not so friendly maximum security prison.

The prison's sustainable features include: solar panels, wood-fire heating in lieu of oil, strict recycling and eco-friendly food production. Their food is produced by tending fields of organically grown pesticide free vegetables, fishing on the 30' prison owned boat, and taking care of livestock. Livestock includes 200 chickens, eight horses, 40 sheep, and 20 cows.

It remains to be seen whether or not this program will help reintegrate prisoners back into normal society after their sentences are up. Norway, unlike the US, has no death penalty and the maximum sentence served is usually around 21 years. I think this attitude fundamentally changes the way the Norwegian people deal with criminals because rehabilitation is seen as a priority. It may be due, in part, to the low population of Norway (~4 million), but certainly could be tried anywhere.

I would also add that the sustainable attributes of the prison are in many ways a practical necessity because of it's remote location. Photovoltaics and organic food production are not such a stretch when considering the effort it would take to transport food and energy to the island on a regular basis. Common sense!

And would this prison not be a death sentence for those of you who need an occasional twinkie or snickers bar?...

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October 3rd, 2007 at 2:29 PM


what a great idea...

October 6th, 2007 at 3:57 PM


It is such a beautiful idea. Giving these prisoners a choice to return to a natural healthy way of life as opposed to living behind bars... I don't know that it would work in the here in the US though...

June 29th, 2009 at 1:43 AM

A Life Sentence: Norway’s Sustainable Prison : Chelsea Green

[...] Read the whole article here. [...]