Kriminalomsorgen: A Look at the World's Most Humane Prison System in Norway

42 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2016

See all articles by Ryan Berger

Ryan Berger

Duke University, School of Law, Students

Date Written: December 10, 2016


Kriminalomsorgen, Norway’s corrections system, is described as the world’s most humane prison system. Kriminalomsorgen focuses on rehabilitation and reintegration as the primary purposes of prison, and implements these policies through the Principle of Normality, which mandates that life in prison should be as similar to life outside of prison as possible. Norwegians believe that prison’s sole punishment should be the loss of liberty, and that offenders continue to be entitled to all other rights and services that every other citizen receives. Bastøy Prison and Halden Prison stand out as two of Norway’s most famous prisons, renowned for their lavish amenities and services.

Comparing the Norwegian prison system with the American prison system reveals stark differences. The Norwegian system is far more expensive, with the cost per prisoner three times higher than it is in the American system. However, the Norwegian system appears to do a much better job of reducing recidivism than the American system. Indeed, the rate of American recidivism is up to three times higher than the rate of Norwegian recidivism.

Kriminalomsorgen is an impressive system that does many things well, but implementing a similar system in the United States would prove difficult. Firstly, Norway is a much different country than the United States, as Norway is a small, homogenous country with a low prison population while the United States is a large, heterogeneous country with a massive prison population. Thus, a system that succeeds in Norway might not necessarily succeed in the United States. Secondly, Kriminalomsorgen is expensive, so implementing it in the United States would create a heavy financial burden. Finally, American emphasis on punishment and retribution clashes with the rehabilitative ideals underpinning Kriminalomsorgen.

Keywords: Norway, Prison, Kriminalomsorgen

Suggested Citation

Berger, Ryan, Kriminalomsorgen: A Look at the World's Most Humane Prison System in Norway (December 10, 2016). Available at SSRN: or

Ryan Berger (Contact Author)

Duke University, School of Law, Students ( email )

Durham, NC
United States
954-812-0809 (Phone)

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