Norway’s Prison System in America

chris earley
Oct 6, 2016 · 3 min read

In Norway the prison system is significantly different then ours. In Norway prisoners are more free to do what they need to do to get back into society. They are given jobs like gardening and work with their hands to keep them busy but to also teach them different skills. They also have larger living areas where they aren’t locked behind bars and instead are living in a dormitory type building with other inmates. This is much different than the harsh system that we have here in the United States. The question is would this system work here?

The answer is that it’s not that simple. When comparing the American prison system to the Norway system I think most people would agree that the Norway system sounds better and we should adopt it. The issue is that Norway and the United States are very different. The first issue is the fact that we as a country have a signifcantly higher population than Norway and have more prisoners. “According to the New York Times story, Norway has a grand total of 3,800 prisoners, compared to 2.2 million in the United States.” ( Rakesh Sharma) That is approximately 578 times more prisoners. And for each prisoner you have to pay for basic things such as food, living space, and medical supplies for example. Having each prisoner have there own furnished room and appliances and allowing them to go back and forth from the prison freely becomes very pricey. Norway also has a higher GDP than the U.S.A ranking in at $68,591 to our $56,084. (IMF 2015) More importantly than that the two countries have two completely different economic systems. Norway is a social welfare meaning that “the state levies high taxes from a mostly rich population.” ( Rakesh Sharma) With this money the government can afford to run programs like this without worrying.

Now that all that is out of the way lets talk about HOW it could work. First of all we could lower the amount of people incarcerated for non-violent or minor drug related crimes. If we lower the number of people incarcerated we then have more money to spend on making the prison system better for the people that are still incarcerated. Another point that we can copy Norway on is the limit on sentences. When you have people incarcerated for 60+ years the state is responsible for that person every single day and has to pay for them every day. If you added a limit like Norway’s 21 year limit then you would cut down spending again allowing for more money to be spent on other incarcerated prisoners.

A final thought. Though there are ways to lower spending in our prison systems and potentially make it better for the people in prison I feel it is important to look at the social differences between Norway and the U.S. We cannot simply say that we as a people can trust that this system works for everyone just because it works in another society. We would need to start from the ground up and start by teaching our youth what it means to do something wrong and the repercussions of their actions. Once we learn as a society how to treat each other then maybe we can incorporate more freedom in prisons where they are what they should be which is a place to reform a person so that they can go back into society as a production member. And that is what the Norway system is. It’s a way for a person who has done wrong to be able to learn from their actions and reflect upon why they did what they did and fix it.