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  • A prisoner named Lars has just finished his music lesson, and with a bit of time on his

  • hands, he decides to retreat to the front lawn and catch some rays on one of the loungers.

  • He then returns to his room, watches some TV, only to remember he has an appointment

  • at the prison's state-of-the-art dental surgery.

  • One hour later he's in the shared kitchen talking to the other guys while their lamb

  • casserole cooks in the oven.

  • He takes a recently-sharpened seven-inch knife and cuts an impressive array of fruits into

  • cute flower shapes.

  • Waving the knife in the air he tells another inmate that they should go into the recording

  • studio after dinner and finish that track they've been working on.

  • They are both convicted killers.

  • This might sound strange to you, but prisons like this might just work.

  • Tell us what you think about that after the show.

  • 3.

  • A couple of joints in Norway So, the first prison we want to talk about

  • and the one we based our introduction on is called Halden Prison.

  • It's a maximum-security facility in Norway and is the country's second-largest prison.

  • Before we talk about what life is like in there, you need to know that the concept of

  • this facility is based on prisoners living like they would on the outside.

  • They lose their freedom, of course, but in no way are they treated like caged animals.

  • It's quite the opposite, in fact.

  • The experience is supposed to address the animalistic actions that got the prisoners

  • there in the first place.

  • The focus is to rehabilitate, something that might just happen.

  • You'd hope it would happen because Halden holds men described as the worst of the worst,

  • prisoners who've committed absolutely heinous violent crimes.

  • The officers there are well-paid and well-trained.

  • They are told during their training that their job is to treat a prisonerso that his

  • sentence is as meaningful, enlightening and rehabilitating as possible.”

  • In fact, they don't even call inmates prisoners, rather they call them pupils.

  • The governor there once said this about the inmates, “They are among the worst criminals

  • in Norway.

  • They are murderers, they are rapists, they are Hells Angels.”

  • These are the people who might one day be asked to chop wood.

  • They get to use chainsaws and axes, and it seems, they don't occasionally choose limbs

  • over wood.

  • If such a thing should happen, the unarmed officers would not be in the best position.

  • They don't carry guns and they don't even have pepper spray.

  • Does this kind of prison work?

  • Well, Norway's former Minister of Justice and Police has said he thinks it does.

  • He said that the inmates at some point will have to go back out into the real world, and

  • the one thing you don't need them doing is committing more crimes.

  • This is how one inmate put it: “People in other countries say that what

  • Norway does is wrong.

  • But why does Norway have the world's lowest murder rate?

  • Maybe we're doing something that really works.”

  • The prison actually goes out of its way to make inmates feel they are not in a prison

  • at all.

  • They live in colorful chalets rather than cells, each with home comforts and modern

  • appliances.

  • Those rooms each have their own mini-fridge and large TVs, while rooms are designed so

  • that the prisoners have great views of the rolling hills, a pine forest, and what were

  • called blueberry woods.

  • If they get bored of the room, they can always go to the small movie theater in the prison.

  • Here are some other things on the prison grounds: A jogging trail through the woods, a soccer

  • field, a tennis court, a modern gym, a stacked library with not just books, but plenty of

  • movies on DVD.

  • Maybe the best thing they have is a rock-climbing wall.

  • There are also a bunch of visiting rooms that are more like hotel rooms, and if the mood

  • takes them, inmates can buy condoms for those visits.

  • If the inmates have a family, they can apply for something called theDaddy In Prison

  • program, which means in spite of their crime they can invite the wife and kids to the prison.

  • Once there, the whole family will get a large two-bedroom chalet that comes with a large

  • wooden deck and a pretty garden that overlooks the pine forest.

  • We've seen it and it looks like someplace you'd pay to go on vacation.

  • Lots of toys and a playhouse are also available for the kids.

  • The officers and the inmates are supposed to be more like friends than enemies, with

  • officers going through two to three years of rigorous training before they can work

  • there.

  • They eat with the prisoners and play sports with them, and always treat them with the

  • utmost respect.

  • In the UK, the average time an officer will spend being trained is 12 weeks.

  • According to the Marshall Project, in the US, training can last as little as five weeks.

  • In Norway, the selection process is actually very strict, so not anyone can walk into the

  • job.

  • At Halden, the warden said, “In our system, officers are quite well paid and when an officer

  • knows more about the law, he knows more about how to deal with inmates and how to avoid

  • violence.”

  • He said he couldn't remember the last time there was violence between inmates and staff,

  • saying that in other countries corruption and bad relationships may be a result of undertrained

  • officers working for little money in dangerous environments.

  • The journalist talking to him said the governor scratched his head when he was told that attacks

  • on officers in the UK had tripled in the last five years and about 10 percent of the attacks

  • were classed as serious.

  • There's more to it, too.

  • An American criminologist named David Green talked about how Norwegian society at large

  • treats convicts in a different manner than other countries.

  • He says that in a country such as the UK, a murderer is called a monster in the media,

  • whereas in Norway the media might portray a killer as some who has committed a terrible

  • act, but an aberrant one.

  • He said the person will be talked about in the media as someone that has some psychological

  • flaws, possibly as a result of the environment they have grown up in.

  • Basically, they can be saved, is the message.

  • They can change.

  • It sounds like a pretty good life, but prisoners are still told what to do and when they should

  • do it, so it's not exactly a holiday camp.

  • They have free time, but they also follow a schedule.

  • This is what one prisoner said who'd spent a few years there:

  • “I don't know if I'll commit a crime or do drugs again.

  • I hope not.

  • I don't want to visit this place again.”

  • For the prisoners, having their freedom taken away from them is bad enough.

  • The question is, how many prisoners get out of there and commit crimes again?

  • Well, in the entire country of Norway, there is a recidivism rate of 20 percent, making

  • it one of the lowest rates in the entire world.

  • That means 20 percent of prisoners will re-offend in five years of being released.

  • According to the US National Institute of Justice, 77 percent of American prisoners

  • will re-offend within five years of getting out.

  • The UK is a bit lower, but not much lower.

  • There, half of all released prisoners will re-offend within just one year.

  • That's why the US and the UK have been criticized for what are calledrevolving doorprisons.

  • The argument one could put forward is that Norway is just an easier country to live in,

  • but before the country started these experimental prison programs where inmates can mix dance

  • tunes and take yoga classes, it also had a recidivism rate of around 60 to 70 percent.

  • That was back when prisons were solely punitive, were oppressive, and were violent.

  • The BBC in 2019 interviewed an officer who'd worked in the Norwegian system many years.

  • He said in the past prison was indeed a tough place where men were locked in cages and plotted

  • their revenge on the officers or society at large.

  • He said the new culture has taken away a lot of resentment and macho behavior.

  • Could a prisoner just walk out of there?

  • Well, there is a 24-foot perimeter wall, but you won't find any barbed wire and you won't

  • see any electric fences.

  • It seems prisoners don't try and escape anyway.

  • That might be because there are no life sentences, meaning life where a prisoner will never be

  • released back into society.

  • The maxim sentence is 21 years, and that comes with lots of rehabilitation.

  • Of course, there have been torrents of criticism about the prison, but the governor believes

  • it works.

  • He explained in an interview why prisoners seem to actually become better members of

  • society after their release: “In Norway, the punishment is just to take

  • away someone's liberty.

  • The other rights stay.

  • Prisoners can vote, they can have access to school, to health care; they have the same

  • rights as any Norwegian citizen.

  • Because inmates are human beings.

  • They have done wrong, they must be punished, but they are still human beings.”

  • As for the daily schedule, prisoners must leave their cells at 7.30 am.

  • They eat and then have to go to work.

  • That could be farming, but we also saw what looked like a very modern garage where inmates

  • were fixing cars.

  • Due to the education programs, some of the prisoners are now qualified mechanics and

  • chefs.

  • They get an hour in the afternoon to chill, and later they cook a communal dinner.

  • That's when the knives come out, which to be honest does look kind of scary when you

  • hear a prisoner was in for stabbing someone to death.

  • According to the New York Times, there's no need to be worried.

  • The newspaper said that the atmosphere there is tranquil, adding that no prisoner has ever

  • tried to escape.

  • That same article also pointed out that in the US it costs around $35,000 a year for

  • each prisoner, whereas Halden costs over $90,000 per prisoner per year.

  • That's a big difference, but you could ask if proper rehabilitation in the US would cut

  • down on prisoners returning so often.

  • This was said in the article: “If the United States incarcerated its citizens

  • at the same low rate as the Norwegians do (75 per 100,000 residents, versus roughly

  • 700), it could spend that much per inmate and still save more than $45 billion a year.”

  • A cynic might say that crime and punishment in the US is a big business, and there are

  • those that don't want to see their profits dwindle.

  • Norway doesn't have what is called a “prison industrial complex.”

  • Still, surely there is some acting out in Halden.

  • Half the prisoners are in for serious violent crimes, with many of the rest being in for

  • drug offenses.

  • There are gangs in there, make no mistake, and some of the inmates look like they know

  • their way around a gun and have had more than a few fights in their life.

  • Violent instances are said to be very rare indeed, with prisoners hardly ever even speaking

  • out of turn and threatening others.

  • If that happens, it usually happens in Unit A. That's where the few problematic prisoners

  • are kept.

  • This is a more supervised unit, and it's there that prisoners will receive more therapy

  • than in the open parts of the prison.

  • It is far from the kind of solitary confinement in the US, with prisoners still having some

  • home comforts, a TV, and being allowed to do things like play board games with other

  • inmates in the wing.

  • They still get to cook nice food, so what's really different is the fact they are supervised

  • most of the time and will have to regularly visit psychotherapists.

  • Cooking is actually a huge pastime all over the prison, with one journalist saying when

  • he was there, “I was treated to chocolate mousse presented in a wineglass, a delicate

  • nest of orange zest curled on top.”

  • One of the guys that he saw cooking, he described as having “666” tattooed under his eye

  • and he also had another giant tattoo saying something not very nice about the police,

  • a line perhaps taken from a famous NWA song.

  • When the journalist was left alone with this guy he admitted he felt quite scared, which

  • the prisoner seemed to notice because he said, “It's quiet.

  • No fighting, no drugs, no problemYou're safe.”

  • We don't want to keep going on about Norway, but you need to know there's another luxury

  • prison called Bastoey Prison.

  • This is situated on a beautiful island, although that's not for security reasons.

  • It's actually a minimum-security prison.

  • It used to be renowned as a brutal hellhole, as bad as a young offender's prison could

  • get.

  • Famously the inmates once took over the prison because of the hatred and violence they were

  • subjected to daily.

  • That's why it was known asDevil's Island.”

  • That insurrection was so bad the Norwegian military had to storm the prison, bringing

  • planes, an armored ship, and a submarine.

  • Things have changed a bit since then, with prisoners now being given the freedom to work

  • on a farm, to take horseback rides, to play tennis, ski, fish, and to pretty much live

  • like they are in a resort.

  • Their food is cooked by chefs, and like at Halden, they live peacefully together while

  • learning skills that will help them earn money on the outside.

  • Could it get any better than that?

  • Watch this and make your own mind up.

  • 2.

  • A joint in Spain Outside of Norway, there is a handful of what

  • you might call comfortable prisons.

  • One of them is Aranjuez prison in Spain which has been called, “five star.”

  • It looks pretty chill, but it's not as classy as a place like Halden.

  • This is a prison for families, so the kids get to live with the inmate, at least until

  • the child is three.

  • The spouse can also move in.

  • The children attend nursery and because of the design, they wouldn't even know they

  • were in a prison.

  • The cells are decked out with Disney stuff and there is a crib in each one, while there

  • are plenty of play areas outside.

  • It's basically a prison disguised as a kindergarten.

  • Why do this?

  • Officials say they don't want to split up new families.

  • The men, or women, might have committed a crime, but the government doesn't want to

  • destroy a family.

  • That all sounds very sweet, so now prepare to hear something the opposite of sweet.

  • A joint in the Philippines This is a story about a place called Bilibid

  • jail, where if you have power and money you can live like a king.

  • Well, it depends on what kind of king you are talking about, perhaps one who enjoys

  • a certain amount of vice.

  • There was a raid in this prison not too long ago and it was found that not all prisoners

  • lived alike.

  • While some had to make do with a bit of cramped floor space and a mat to sleep on, others

  • were described as living in their very own luxury villas.

  • The raid found that these villas all had air-conditioning, but that was the least of it.

  • One large cell had its very own strip bar.

  • On top of that, some cells were found to contain Jacuzzis, while thousands of dollars and mountains

  • of drugs were also discovered in this five-star part of the prison.

  • Officers even uncovered sex dolls in one of the cells.

  • The country's Justice Secretary had this to say about those cells, “They are here

  • to serve jail time but instead, they're living like kings.”

  • We don't need to tell you that this wasn't about rehabilitation, but criminal power.