There’s an island that lies in the tranquil clear waters off the Norwegian coast, just South of Oslo. It’s an island filled with trees and surrounded by a pebbled beach. Pathways wind through the forests, linking up bungalows, tennis courts, a football pitch, library, spa and cinema.
The inhabitants of Bastoy spend their mornings doing some work and their afternoons walking, fishing, playing sport or simply relaxing in a sauna. Sounds like a place I wouldn’t want to leave. Well the guys on the island don’t – you see they’re in a prison. There may not be any cells, or bars, or guards carrying weapons, but some pretty hardcore prisoners serve out their sentences on this “paradise”. And the kicker? It has the lowest rate of re-offense in Europe. To put in perspective the average European re-offending rate is between 70 – 75%. At Bastoy it’s only 16%.
You can read the full story here – it’s really quite interesting and makes you question the role of prison systems. Is punishment more important than rehabilitation? If you remove the emotion from the debate, is reintroducing someone into society as a productive member not a better outcome then keeping them locked up at the taxpayer’s expense?
While I do think there’s merit in the concept, there are certainly cases where punishment seems like the better option. The horrendous bombing and shooting that happened in Norway last week is a case in point. It also highlighted another strange thing about the Norwegian penal code. Under their law, a crazed extremist, right-wing, religious fundamentalist (that’s a whole mouthful of horrible!) who blew up a building and then single handedly shot and killed over ninety kids (ironically also on an island) would be subject to a maximum sentence of 21 years. They’re now considering trying Anders Behring Breivik for crimes against humanity as the sentence is longer. But still only 30 years. W.T.F??!?!??!?!