To ease the psychological burdens of imprisonment, the planners at Halden spent roughly 1 million USD on paintings, photography, and light installations.
There is also a recording studio with a professional mixing board. In-house music teachers who refer to the inmates as “pupils,” and never “prisoners” work with them on piano, guitar, bongos and more.
Norway’s prison guards undergo two years of training at an officers academy and enjoy an elevated status compared with their peers in the U.S. and Britain. Their official job description states they must motivate the inmates to become more enlightened and rehabilitated.
Every 10 to 12 cells share a kitchen and living room, where prisoners prepare their evening meals and relax after a day of work. None of the windows at Halden have bars.
Halden’s architects preserved trees across the 75-acre site to obscure the 20ft high security wall that surrounds the perimeter, in order to minimize the institutional feel and, in the words of one architect, to “let the inmates see all of the seasons.” Benches and stone chessboards dot this jogging trail.
Norwegian inmates lose their right to freedom, but not to state services like health care. Dentists, doctors, nurses and even librarians work in the local municipality, preventing a subpar prison standard from developing.
Security guards organize activities from 8:00am to 8:00pm. It’s a chance for inmates to pick up a new hobby, but also a part of the prisons dynamic security strategy: occupied prisoners are less likely to lash out at guards and one another.
The maximum sentence in Norway, even for murder, is 21 years. Since most inmates will eventually return to society, prisons mimic the outside world as much as possible to prepare them for freedom.
To help inmates develop routines and to reduce the monotony of confinement, designers spread Haldens living quarters, work areas and activity centers across the prison grounds.