VIDEO: Nordic prisons visited by a US Correctional Officer

VIDEO: Nordic prisons visited by a US Correctional Officer
James Conway shakes his head in disbelief, as he walks through the institution they call ''prison.''

Finnish Broadcasting, YLE, has made a documentary series called "Norden", where focus is on various aspects of society in Scandinavia. In this episode, former correctional officer, James Conway, from the notorious US prison Attica, has been brought in to have a look at the nordic prison system.

During a one week filming trip with The Finnish Broadcasting Company, he visited different kinds of correctional institutions in Finland and Sweden, but the Norwegian ultra liberal regime was nothing like what he’s used to.

“Why don´t you just give them the keys?” he asks, as he inspects the top modern music studio, complete with electric guitars, mixing console and, as icing on the cake, a Toto poster on the wall.

Where Conway comes from, everything in sight might be turned into a lethal weapon. A coat hanger for example. But in Halden there are no plastic spoons. There are tools like hammers, chain saws and axes available for the inmates. Cutlery and sharp knives can be found in the kitchen and in the music studio there’s a deadly Toto poster you could choke someone with.

But the thing is, in the Nordic countries and especially in the Halden prison, the inmates will be treated as “normal” as possible in an attempt to make them suitable for life outside prison once they have served their sentence. The inmates that can go to Halden are of course chosen carefully, but those who go there will be treated as they were at home. If you smoke indoors at home, you’re allowed to smoke in your cell as well. Your neighbors and work mates don´t carry guns (at least we hope so), so the prison guards at Halden are unarmed as well.

Conway’s view is that it’s you who put yourself in prison. Not the staff, not the judge, not society. You’ve only got yourself to blame, so you deserve to be treated like a prisoner. Not like a rock star.

“If i was homeless I would much rather be in that prison than sleeping on the streets.” (Comment on

“If you come to prison, your right to privacy is gone. The inmate has given up his right to be in society by violating the law. That person shouldn’t be given a situation where we’re concerned about how they would feel if somebody walks by their cell and sees them on the toilet. Who cares how they feel?” Conway says.

Time will tell if the inmates who have served the last years of their sentence at Halden prison will go back to a normal life or back to a path of crime and eventually return to prison.

What do you think? Is it an insult to the victims to put the offenders in a ''hotel'', or is this a good liberal idea?


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