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Paradox25's avatar

Do you think these type of prisons would decrease recidivism rates in the United States?

Asked by Paradox25 (10218points) April 27th, 2014

Halden Fengsel Prison, located in Norway, received its first imates in March 2010. As you can see from the pictures and reading the article this place is no San Quentin. Halden Fengsel has nature trails, large and cushy cells complete with television and the like. There’s plenty of job training opportunities and college courses offered at the prison. Inmates even have personal fitness trainers, and are given a questionnaire where inmates are asked how their prison experience can be improved.

The guards have a much more personal relationship with the inmates, even going as far as eating dinner with them, counseling them and playing sports. The relationship between guards, staff and inmates in many American prisons appears to be much different from this speaking with people I have know who had served time in jail or prison.

The recidivism rate of criminals in Norway is at about 20%, where in America it’s more like 50% to 60%. This prison houses serious offenders such as murderers and rapists, so I’m not sure how lesser offenders are treated in Norway. My question is do you think this model would, or at least could, work in the United States at reducing recidivism rates?

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18 Answers

ragingloli's avatar

Another important factor is, how ex-inmates are treated once released, and how much opportunity society gives them to reintegrate, find employment, etc.
Introducing such a rehabilitative prison system might only have a marginal impact if released inmates are immediately pushed at the edge of society upon release.
But of course, we all know that system would never be implemented.
In the american psyche, prison must be about punishment, retaliation and vengeance, not rehabilitation.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

No, these would never reduce the recidivism rate. They are so nice and plush and green that they are far better than the environment in which most convicts live. This merely invites more recidivism. American criminals are obviously a different breed than in most other parts of the world.

As @ragingloli said, ”... prison must be about punishment, retaliation and vengeance, not rehabilitation.”
This is about as true as it gets for the majority of Americans who have been watching the incredibly dismal conditions in their prison system for 100 years and except for a bit of prison reform here and there, have sat on their butts and done nothing.

jerv's avatar

Recidivism equals profit, and there are many for whom prison is an improvement; they’re living indoors, have free medical, and they get fed. Of course, nations that take care of their poor better seem to have lower crime rates to begin with, and in the US, there seems to be a correlation between crime rates and poverty rates…

Berserker's avatar

Washed up American pride if you ask me, especially if the statistics are true; 20% crime rate in Norway VS 50/60% in the States? The system over in North America is obviously flawed somehow.

bolwerk's avatar

First of all, you misunderstand the motivations behind Amerikan prisons. They is nothing corrective or remedial about them. Nothing of this sort is even intended. Their primary purpose is so people in charge can wield power over other people. By doing so, they look tough and in charge; they get votes. Then the USA does its damnedest to keep prisoners in prison, and return ex-prisoners to cells. This is especially true of the Amerikan far right, but few politicians have incentive to reduce prison rates. Too many jobs are on the line, and prisoners and often ex-prisoners usually can’t vote anyway.

The for-profit prison industry is not much more appalling than the rest of it. Every prosecutor, defense lawyer, pig, and prison guard (public or private) is making money off the system. And they’re all highly organized, the latter two into unions.

If you want less recidivism, there must be opportunity when people get out. But the important point is not having rules that put people in prison in the first place.

Coloma's avatar

I think the potential is there, short of hardcore murderers, pedophiles, the most irredeemable types.
There is a saying that “criminals are people who were never loved enough to matter.”
I am not a complete Pollyanna, but, I have always been for prison systems that strive to re-connect people with something bigger than themselves. Give them a sense of self esteem, introduce the concept that they can make a difference, like having inmates bond with, gentle and train wild mustangs like some programs out west.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Treat people like animals, which our prison system does, and you’ll get animals. Threat people like human beings and the results might surprise you.

cheebdragon's avatar

Why wouldn’t the family of a murder or assault victim, love knowing the perpetrator is in a caring prison with nature trails and customer (inmate) service?~

Most people aren’t born in prison so the way they treat prisoners really shouldn’t have much effect on society. The prison guards are not the problem 90% of the time, it’s the inmates that regulate the rules and each race has it’s own set of standards.

linguaphile's avatar

After watching the movie The House I Live In, and participating in a play, Any One Of Us: Words from Prison, I learned that American prisons are often privately owned, corporate based and need prisoners to keep jobs for the guards. This information was supported by my cousin, who worked as a guard for years. Cops know that they must arrest people to feed the prisons to keep jobs for their buddies and their community.

Yes, both the movie and the play have the goal of getting us to understand that prisons are not simply institutions of punishment, but an extremely complex interchange of layers, networks, connections, reasons, influences… and are often less about punishment and more about catering to the fears of the public, fed by the media. Even then, both the movie and play argue points that are supported by other sources.

Obama just pardoned 8 people who were imprisoned for life during the media fueled outcry over crack in the early 1990s when the government decided that a sentence for 1g of crack would be equal to that of 100g of cocaine. Because of everyone’s panic, the government responded by passing this type of mandate. It wasn’t about the drug as much as it was about the rage-du-jour—what’s mega-evil one decade might not be as evil the next decade.

Today it’s meth and prescription drugs—being caught with 2 loose 5g pills of Oxy, which isn’t enough to get high off of, will get you a felony in Minnesota while a full ounce of weed will just be a 3rd degree misdemeanor.

A woman who hits her husband once with a baseball bat after 10 years of abuse will go to jail, period. The abuser will walk because “she didn’t report it to the police to begin with,” even if she has 100 people testifying that she was abused. If the cops don’t have direct documentation that he raped, slapped or punched her every week for 10 years (even though she risks her life involving the police), she will pay the price for finally snapping and defending herself. If she’s a person of color, lives in poverty or has a public defender, good luck getting anything less than the maximum. That’s exactly how it is.

And, don’t get me started on the religion-based private prisons that give ludicrous privileges for those who become outspoken converts.

Anyone with a felony over the age 18 has a life sentence. Society has no room for them. That alone encourages recidivism.

My point is—American prisons are not organized, fed, and run in any way, like Norwegian prisons. Until we change the way we feed our prisons, how we react to crime in our country and how we view and treat felons, we can’t change the way American prisons are run.

cheebdragon's avatar

San Quinton is not a good comparison…..try the California Men’s Colony

zenvelo's avatar

The United States has more people in prison than just about the whole rest of the world combined. And much of it has to do with idiotic drug laws and mandatory sentencing.

Prison is a corporate industry, with needed resources to maintain the profit margin. Those resources are people.

The most powerful union in California is The Correctional Officers Union, who regularly lobby for bills to increase prison populations and prison building.

Major prison and correctional reform is way overdue in the United States, and it needs end to end reform, from the over militarized police forces who kill more innocent people each year than terrorists, to the “justice mill” of the criminal courts, through to the prison infrastructure.

No one in the prison industry really wants it to change, they just want it to run smoothly and be less of a headache.

Coloma's avatar

If you read the text below the video…the U.S. is only 5% of the world population but has 25% of it’s prisoners. Pretty shocking!

Paradox25's avatar

@ragingloli Yes, I think the culture has to change on the most fundamental levels. I really do believe many cultures generate criminals, but some people are simply vile and lack empathy, even if their lives are good. I believe in the Butterfly Effect, where every action that one does, legal or not, has either positive or negative consequences for the rest of us. There are some things in my opinion that’s accepted by most cultures, or are legal, that causes more problems then some things that are illegal, but yet people finger point.

@zenvelo So you’re admitting that unions can be a bad thing? If we privatize prisons we end up with similar results, so as long as profit remains an incentive we will always end up with criminals. It does appear that Norway’s model is to fight the cycle of recidivism.

@cheebdragon I was trying to show what Halden Fengsel isn’t. San Quentin is the typical intimidating prison that houses the most dangerous inmates in California, and it has America’s largest death row, though several other states execute more prisoners annually. Maybe Folsom would be another good comparison to San Quentin.

zenvelo's avatar

@Paradox25 And San Quentin is not the toughest prison in California, even though it has Death Row. Pelican Bay is much worse, a super max hundreds of miles from a major city, on the coast near the Oregon Border. 734 miles from South Central LA, 12 hours by car, a day and a half by bus. Not at all easy for family visits.

And Pelican Bay has over 500 inmates that have been in solitary confinement for more than ten years. That much solitary causes mental illness. And it only takes being seen talking to a gang member to be put in isolation forever.

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