How Norway designed a more humane prison


These photos look like they’re from a hotel,
or a fancy college dorm room. There’s a gym, common areas, and private
bedrooms. But this place, just outside Halden, Norway, is a prison. There’s no barbed wire, lots of greenery,
and striking contemporary art. Inmates even have pretty great views out of
their cell windows. It’s all part of a plan to make prisons
more humane — through design. The underlying philosophy behind humane prison design argues that the look and feel of a
prison shouldn’t be a punishment. And the first thing designers focus on is
the basic architecture of prison buildings. In most prison architecture, facilities are
consolidated into one contiguous building. A courtyard design uses a rectangular building
around a central outdoor space. In a telephone pole design, rows of buildings
are stacked like a ladder. And radial designs have corridors that branch
out from a central hub, like spokes on a wheel. While these layouts are good for moving lots
of inmates around efficiently, they restrict prisoners to identical indoor hallways day
after day, and tight quarters can unintentionally create tension and conflict. So humane prisons are often laid out in a
campus design, where facilities are split between separate buildings, with a surrounding
perimeter wall. At Norway’s Halden Prison, housing is located
here, while education and visitation spaces are here, in separate buildings. This means most inmates have to start their
day with a commute — mimicking life in the outside world and providing easy access to
outdoor physical activity. And unlike other layouts, which have windows
that look out onto the prison itself, campus design gives inmates a rich view of their
surrounding environment. This access to nature also helps inmates track
the passage of time. Spending time outside and seeing days and
seasons pass through windows helps reduce this problem. Plus, the grounds of humane prisons are usually
landscaped carefully. At Halden, tall birch and pine trees dwarf
the buildings and obscure the perimeter wall, lending what designers call an “anti-authoritarian”
feel to the campus: inmates are never made to feel intimidated by the architecture itself. Building materials influence humane design
too. In other prisons, interiors are made from
hard materials like concrete, linoleum, and steel. Materials like this block light, are visually
unappealing, and constantly reflect noise. In prisons like Halden, you’ll see glass
to let in natural light, and materials like cork and wood to muffle noise. But humane prison design isn’t just about
architecture and materials. It’s also about what happens inside the walls. Halden’s design affects the way correctional
officers and inmates interact. Because housing is broken up into small communities
with a shared kitchen and communal space, correctional officers can easily monitor inmates
through regular face-to-face contact, instead of observing large groups of people from a
distance. And the guards’ rooms are intentionally
designed too small, to incentivize them to move out into the inmates’ common area. Campus layouts help that relationship flourish:
A study of architecture in Dutch correctional facilities found that campus design ranked
highest in inmate-staff relationships. And US prison studies from the late ‘90s
found that this style of direct contact resulted in fewer violent or security-related incidents. Designing these humane prisons costs money. Which is why most of the groundbreaking work
is happening in Western Europe and Scandinavia, where smaller prison populations and more
robust social support systems allow for more flexible experimentation. And because US prisons often prize cost-saving
over design, it’s still uncommon to see them here. But places like Halden are setting a new precedent
for what the prison of the future could look like. It might feel counterintuitive to create pleasant,
well-designed spaces like this for people who have committed crimes. But under a design philosophy like this, being
imprisoned is the punishment — the architecture doesn’t have to be.

100 comments

  • Vox

    Would you support humane prison design in your own country? Why or why not?

    Reply
  • Neek

    Most people don’t have freedom even though they are free. They work all day to have nothing to show for it. They work work work, go home, and work work work. JUST to survive. Many people would prefer to live here for free and have no worries. Prison should be scary, it would make people not want to be there. (Although I think only the worst criminals should be there. Murderers, rapists, violent people, etc)

    Reply
  • Javier Pan

    I low key want to go to Norway to shoplift, like it could be a gap year experience, that place is nicer than my home lol

    Reply
  • Sara Kunze

    Of course it was freaking Scandinavia

    Reply
  • Anaja Dorcas

    I love this!! Amazing

    Reply
  • Mr marvel

    This is just gonna make people want to go to prison

    Reply
  • Yadi Yaori

    this wont work in most country

    Reply
  • xXCoffee And Beans GachaXx

    This looks…. like, really good. I want to live there

    Reply
  • Daniel Belv

    I hate the entire concept of prison that one person can decide that another has to spend up to the rest of their life behind bars without ever experiencing life from their perspective

    Reply
  • gopeto 511

    So now we live in times when prisoners live better than homeless

    Reply
  • Dhruv Kaluskar

    Feels a lot like my college campus…

    Reply
  • ilove2929

    Curious with data of which common/conventional lay out that makes the most and least violent/oppresion to prisoners

    Reply
  • cosmic vermilion ginger girl

    Judge : i shall sentence u to jail for 15 years.
    Me : can i pick wich prison?
    Judge : yes?
    Me : then i pick this one *shows this vid *

    Reply
  • Psycho Mantis

    I mean this works for us, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work for big countries

    Reply
  • Aihara

    The Prison where you feel so good, that you don’t wanna leave

    Reply
  • iwannabuyaduck

    I support humane prisons as long as murderers and rapists are not in them, they do NOT deserve that.

    Reply
  • Annie208.rattay

    When a description of a prison sounds more like a trivago advert you know humanity has gone too far

    Reply
  • Rita Tran

    Get it together America

    Reply
  • Lindsay Tucker

    I’m all for this. But child predators and child murders need their own area in the basement with no access to any of those luxuries. Sorry🤷🏻‍♀️

    Reply
  • Taylor Swift

    This prison looks better than my high school

    Reply
  • SGreacts

    That’s a bad prison

    Reply
  • Toni High

    If some man rapes and kills your little sister, do you really want him to go into a luxury prison like Halden?

    Reply
  • Julian Sanchez

    Might as well pay the prisoners to be there.

    Reply
  • HelloXJosh

    THEY DID IT BY LOOKING AT AMERICA AND BEING LIKE NAH B WE GONE DO THE EXACT OPPOSITE AND KEEP PEOPLE SANE

    Reply
  • HelloXJosh

    My school ain’t even this nice. Like inmates be in better conditions than me at school

    Reply
  • HipsterAmI Right

    not happening in the us

    Reply
  • Syno Nymous

    ImprIsoned in the A E S T H E T I C

    Reply
  • Parker Stevenson

    If you’re so poor you might as well commit a crime in Norway. Then you would have food, somewhere nice to live and somewhere to learn

    Reply
  • lakersin5

    Well for a start the US prison generates revenue so…

    Reply
  • SoughtThrone1

    HomLeSsnEsS sOlVed

    Reply
  • Code Name Teddy

    I’m going to Norway to commit some crimes real quick

    Reply
  • Owen Page

    That looks much nicer than many peoples' houses

    Reply
  • Luketto X

    They say the prison should be humane, well is what they did humane?

    Reply
  • FoxSickness

    Looks more pleasant than my school

    Reply
  • Rui Teixeira

    This is wrong

    Reply
  • The plane spotter BG

    Wouldnt homeless people commit crimes just to get in there

    Reply
  • sococowtippers

    Now I want to go to prison in Norway

    Reply
  • rambo

    You know it’s sad when a prison is better then your house

    Reply
  • C R A C K E R

    *

    Reply
  • Billy Branting

    homeless in norway?
    get arrested

    Reply
  • lq_lynx

    So, umm, what do I do to get sent to prison for a week? 🤔

    Reply
  • Suburban Kid

    WAIT won’t homeless people be committing crimes?

    Reply
  • Sakamoto

    At least this is better than my schoo- [Ahem] I meant "prison."

    Reply
  • Justin Franks

    yeah but there are certain times in which heinous crimes are committed that are so evil the perpetrator needs punishment for what they have done such as gang rapes and mass shootings and terrorist attacks.

    Reply
  • Vanish

    Crime rate increases by 999999%

    Reply
  • Mr Ditkovich

    Brb, just gonna go rob a Norwegian bank.

    Reply
  • Caden Siegle

    No, 76% of inmates have been back to jail multiple times. We don’t need to encourage anymore crime.

    Reply
  • Connor Lorenz

    “A prison should not be a punishment” … umm yeah ok

    Reply
  • C Moeof4

    The point of prison is to prevent people from wanting to go to prison. Therefore giving people a reason to not commit crimes. That is why if you are a felon you shouldn’t be able to vote. If you are sentenced to prison is should not be comfortable. Because people those reasons should be always in the back of your head when you think of committing a crime. Secondly how about let’s spend our taxes on the people who are not in prison first.

    Reply
  • James Ye

    their tax dollar popping

    Reply
  • Aussie Boy

    In Norway, criminals break into prison. 😁

    Reply
  • Niko Dittmar

    That moment when a prison is nicer than your house

    Reply
  • Cherrie

    Do y'all still consider serial killers 'Humane'?

    Reply
  • Sahil Modi

    "more humane"

    aka better than 60% of the people's lifestyle? okayyyy then

    Reply
  • Fädernesland

    If Scandinavia united and deported the clear majority of all immigrants it would have been the closest we have come to an Utopia.

    Reply
  • TheHero idk

    Imagine a prison is better than your house

    Reply
  • younmckee

    Treat someone in a horrible manner, they’ll have a horrible attitude. Ergo repeat criminals.

    Reply
  • wafiy wahidi

    kid:dad can i go to prison?
    dad:why?
    kid: because halden prison was heaven
    dad:waaaaaaaaaaaat

    Reply
  • Franco Pantoja

    Looking better than my house👌🏻

    Reply
  • Zycklacon

    Investigator: Please, tell me why you killed 16 people and commutes 28 counts of robbery

    Me:

    Reply
  • harsh pathak

    This is by far the dumbest thing I've ever seen. 🤣🤣🤣🤣

    Reply
  • Unique Name Here

    rob a bank? nah we will just give you a mansion

    Reply
  • My Life As Tom

    when prisons become better than schools

    Reply
  • Debbie Cakes

    They are encouraging the prisoners to go back to commit more crime just to go back to jail and live rent free and free food…c'mon ..if I go to jail, I wanna not go back to jail and turn my life around for change

    Reply
  • Arnhûr Galathadan

    Completely disagree.

    Reply
  • Keagan Rayne Kirsten

    This prison looks nicer than all university accommodation in my country

    Reply
  • Roman Cusumano

    Support it in Norway but not in America

    Reply
  • Vlad Avram

    I'm ok with the concept and all but… Those prison rooms are luxurious compared to the dormitory of my University. And that is frustrating…

    Reply
  • T00 Qu1ck

    Norway: they're humans
    USA: they're animals

    Reply
  • Russia ball 4400

    Like the nice version of the gulags

    Reply
  • Marcus Wright

    At first I thought that I was totally against this but after thinking about it, it isn’t that bad of an idea.

    Reply
  • Ashish Sangwan

    These countries have too much looted money to spend on prisons

    Reply
  • matan8s

    Looking great! Wonder what will happen to the prisoners in these jails when Norway's oil and gas will completely over in 2050.

    Reply
  • Trigger Random

    aight imma do some theft.. coz this is more cozy than my house

    Reply
  • Roan the Delphox

    And here I thought prisons were supposed to be a deterrent from doing crime. That prison is nicer than my house. I bet what Norway will do next is give rapists and murderers mansions and 10 meals a day.

    Reply
  • Xavier 2.0

    I would rather stay at here than my house apartment

    Reply
  • Darth Krul

    I guess the homeless won't have to be homeless anymore in Norway (if that works)

    Reply
  • 彭奕維

    This is waaaay better than my college dorm.

    Reply
  • Jann Lee

    Remember people prison in Norway are nice, but you don’t have freedom in prison.

    You can’t access social media, travel, shopping, go to restaurant, go to the movies, doing fun stuff and etc.

    Reply
  • Da meme boi

    Imagine committing a crime just to go live there
    BIG BRAIN TIME

    Reply
  • Rishab Reigns

    Humanity still exists

    Reply
  • ImpaledBerry

    I think the future of prisons should overlook the city, to signify their lack of freedom, rooms are confortable and hyper modern, lots of greenery and natural lighting and windows, cells should have wooden doors with a window, a personal shower, bed, and desk, cafeteria would feel like a mall inside, basically like a college but instead of classes its "cells"

    Reply
  • Cameron Gray

    Everyone who has been released from prison say they are s good person after because of themselves. They have the time to think about what they should have done and how to be better. It’s not the harsh environment they are scared of.

    Reply
  • butterfly effect

    being in prison is the punishment, the architecture doesn’t have to be

    this is great

    Reply
  • ginsengjin

    I support humane prisons. Sometimes people grow up in a bad environment due to circumstances out of their control and they never learned how to be a part of a functioning society being considerate of another. There are plenty of people who deserve a second chance and obviously this type of prisons would be set apart from those who are repeat offenders of violent crimes in which they're most likely not suited for this type of place.

    Reply
  • Jhane Ayles

    Norway's architecture of prisons are brilliant. Just wish the US president would speak on making the education systems and prisons more humane rather than spending billions on a "wall".

    Reply
  • Golden Shark

    For example, in the USA they punish prisoners for what they've done, which mabye will lead to them doing more crimes, and the goverment will lose some money.

    In Norway, prisoners are having a great time in the prison, which will make them a better person, which will lead to less crimes, and they can get a job, and pay taxes and become a better person.

    Reply
  • Golden Shark

    Homeless people be like: Lets go to Norway and commit crimes!

    Reply
  • El. Takes

    Crime rate rises to 100% in Norway

    Reply
  • Cantong Chong

    Do one on German Prisons. The Only Nation in the World where inmates have rights.

    Reply
  • Lucas Lauret

    i prefer this prison as my school, thats sad

    Reply
  • Plutarch

    Prisons are not supposed to be humane. They are supposed to be hard time. Nobody would come back to my prison. Sledgehammers and Rocks. For killers…..Chaingangs. Death Rows. Executions.

    Reply
  • Mercce

    Like I'd commit a crime JUST to go to these prisons.

    Reply
  • BlackSilhouette

    I wish American prision could be like this but it is hard to replicate another country’s system and expect it to turn out the same way with the same results.

    Reply
  • Sachie Reid

    It’s mush easier to do it a Norwegian way if the number of inmates are smaller to begin with.

    Reply
  • Burger panini

    meanwhile in the Philippines:
    they have improvised explosive device inside.

    Reply
  • Ricky911

    Judge: that'll be 47 years
    6six9nine: I know why Norwegian prisoners don't recommit crimes after being released

    Reply
  • Fire Hazzard

    Scandinavia is one step ahead of the world 1. They invaded everything 2. They chilled out for a bit remaining neutral 3. Leading the world in possibly the best places to live now.

    Reply
  • thermal_jacob67

    If you want to commit a crime, do it in Halden.

    Reply
  • Shkooni

    thats just a free house right there

    Reply

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