REDESIGNING CRIME RATES
GREETINGS FROM THE WORLD'S NICEST PRISON
The idyllic Bastøy Island in Norway has been turned into an experimental minimum-security ‘eco prison’, where 115 ‘residents’ -including murderers and rapists- eat organic food, have their own wooden cottages, and can enjoy cross-country skiing, tennis, fishing, horseback riding and other activities once they have completed their mandatory labor on the prison farm.
Located in the Oslo Fiord, about 75 kilometres south from the capital, the prison uses the whole island, but the northern part with the beach Nordbukta is open to the public. The prison is organized as a village with about 80 buildings, roads, beach zones, a football field, agricultural land and forest.
The community has a shop, library, information office, health services, church, school, dock, a ferry service with its own shipping agency and a lighthouse with facilities to let for smaller meetings and seminars. Arne Kvernvik-Nilsen, governor of the prison, leads a staff of 69 prison employees. Of this staff, only five employees remain on the island overnight.
Once a prison colony for young boys, and notorious for its brutal reformatory system, the prison which was founded in 1982 is now trying to become "the first ecological prison in the world" and certainly is one of the world’s most liberal, progressive – and effective: reoffending rates have been reported at 16%, compared to a European average of around 70%. Both nature and buildings are listed for preservation, and the whole of the island community is run under what is described as “human-ecological values and understanding.”
The prison handles most of its own rubbish, and there is a constant focus on minimizing CO2-emissions. “But human-ecological thinking and theory is much more than this,” says the website’s homepage, “Human ecology is concerned with relationships between people and their social and artificially created environments, and focuses on how human beings function together and are influenced by each other and nature.” Although the only access to the 2.6 square kilometre island is from a ferry that departs from Horten, the prison warden says that he worries more about all of the curious outsiders who find their way onto the property than about inmates escaping. And the one who recently escaped, did it in style: he surfed away. (mb) http://www.bastoyfengsel.no/