The U.S prison system was built on dehumanizing inmates. The institution revolves around punishment and works to permanently remove inmates from society, even if they are let out. Rethinking incarceration in the United States is long overdue, but where would we start?
Norway's prison system is built upon 1 simple concept: rehabilitation. Norway abolished capital punishment in 1905, and soon after abolished the death penalty. Their prisons are rehabilitation focused, the end goal is to help prisoners re-enter into society. Their prisons are effective; 80% of inmates do not end up back in prison. In the United States, about 67% of Americans released from prison are rearrested within 3 years, 75% rearrested within 5 years.
At Halden prison, Norway's second highest security prison, the closest thing inmates have to punishment is being physically separated from society as they serve their sentence. Halden holds 251 of Norway's worst criminals, including rapists and serial killers. While they're there, they spend their time in rehab, and they can take vocational classes, learn to cook, and take care of animals. During their time they are taught to change the way they interact with society, so they will not repeat their crimes. Upon release, they are provided housing, healthcare, employment and treatment for addiction. The skills they learned in prison will help them be successful in society. Unlike those trapped in the U.S prison cycle, they will be able to build a better life for themselves when they get out.
In the United States, once someone is released from prison, they are labeled a criminal indefinitely. It's been pounded into society that "criminals'' are bad, so naturally they should not have the same rights as everyone else. No one wants to hire a criminal. No one wants to rent an apartment to a criminal. No one wants to give you a good insurance plan. Also, you can't vote. As a result, you end up back in prison, where you are probably better off, because achieving stability outside of it is impossible.To many, the concept of Norwegian prisons is ridiculous. They may argue that all the rehabilitation is too expensive; Norway spends $93,000 a year per inmate, as opposed to the $33,000 a year spent by the U.S. However, if the U.S adopted a prison system based on rehabilitation, it would lower their incarceration rate. As a result, they would spend about 45 billion less than they are now. America forgets that inmates are still people. The foundation of a humane and effective prison begins with something simple: treating people with humanity.