James Conway is shaking his head in disbelief as he walks through the institution they call ”prison” in Halden in Norway. 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.
“In general the American guy seemed to really embrace the idea of a punitive punishment system. Norwegian prison seems to actually be focused on "Rehabilitation".” (Comment on Reddit.com)
Lethal coat hangers
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 Reddit.com)
“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 the Halden prison will go back to normal life or back to the path of crime and eventually return to prison.
“The question is, what type of citizen do you want? I know what I would prefer, a healthy human who can play guitar and not a drug addicted mentally unstable human!”
(Comment on Reddit.com)
Religion, work, family, police and sexes.
In the upcoming episodes, Yle brings a police captain from Los Angeles over to the Nordic countries. Once again Norway is the biggest shock for Peter Whittingham. The Norwegian police are not allowed to carry guns. They can keep one inside a sealed box in the police car and if there is some kind of disturbance, the officer calls his boss to ask for a permission to take the gun from the box.
This is almost as appalling to the L.A. cop as the fact that there are no police patrols to be seen anywhere around town in Finland, Sweden or Norway.
Gender neutral snow plowing
Masha Kopchenova is a lady from S:t Petersburg in Russia. In the TV series she is trying to figure out what the silly Swedish man means when he tries to explain the concept of “gender neutral snow plowing” in Karlskrona in Sweden. In her opinion it’s just a question of taking away the snow from the streets in a smart way. Start with the smaller streets where people go in the morning by foot and then take the less frequented bigger roads.
“What has that got to do with men or women?” she asks.
Likewise, a conservative priest from West Georgia, USA, and a single, Sicilian guy from Italy don´t quite comprehend what the Nordic “welfare” society is getting at with things like same sex marriages and divorce ceremonies in church.
On the other hand, Scandinavians can’t see the point of intolerance and clinging on to a world that’s long gone.