Wednesday, August 10, 2011

What jail is like

Last year, Vice visited Norway to get a firsthand look at the country’s famously progressive prison system. We’d heard stories of lax treatment of hardened criminals, and the most sensational (and entertaining) reports evoked images of wardens and inmates spending their days arm in arm, whistling nursery rhymes while skipping through fields of flowers.

In reality, though, Norway’s approach is a radical version of the principles that fuel prison systems around the world: punish the crimes, rehabilitate the offender. America, of course, leans more heavily on the former. In Norway, where life sentences don’t exist, and even the worst offenders usually serve no more than 21 years, the focus is distinctly on the latter.

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