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starkjo557 karma

Question from /u/whitejaguar:

Hello Mr Strømnes, you are very punctual. Thanks for doing this AMA and also on your cooperation in producing the comparative documentary on penitentiary systems.

My questions rather simple ones; what criticism do you face nationally and internationally about providing this kind of facilities and treatment to convicts/criminals. Do you get to hear a lot stuff what you doing is waste of tax-payer money or just lock them up, throw the key away. And if you collected such data; from which countries do you get the most positive and negative feedback. And do join Fyodor Dostoevsky on the following remark: "The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons."?

starkjo333 karma

I just asked Jan about this; they're probably the most difficult type of offenders to work with. They're trying out different methods at Halden - one method (which is imported from Sweden) is based on intensive therapeutic discussion, but it's too early to tell if it brings results or not.

starkjo159 karma

As a sidenote, during the research and production of "Breaking the Cycle", we learned that experts agreed on one particular aspect that could improve the system in both the US and other countries: focus on improving the education of staff. It's challenging because - of course - it takes time. In the US, staff receive a few weeks training; in Norway it's a 2-year college degree. To get funding to extend the education in the US takes a lot of political will, which is difficult to the polarization ("talking soft on crime loses you votes"). But staff would need to be given the opportunity to properly learn to communicate, understand people, defuse situations, learn ethics and morale, and so on. To make this actually happen for correctional officers training in the US is very challenging; there may even exist strong resistance towards this from unions, who are happy with the status quo.

starkjo145 karma

Also, it's a PITA to commit crimes during some parts of the year, when it's freezing cold. There's actually a saying that goes something like "a proper coldness is the best police" here in the Nordics.

starkjo63 karma

Jan will reply shortly! I'll just jump in briefly to tell what we learned regarding this, during the researching and filming of Breaking the Cycle. First, the staff know the inmates relatively well, and can "read" the situation so that they quite often know when something might gonna happen, and can try to steer away from that. Second, if an incident in some way occurs, staff immediately tries to calm the situation down in one way or another, by for example separating the involved parties. In some extreme cases, quite rarely, some inmates might be taken over to different units within the premises to cool down, and sometimes, stay there for some hours.