In the Media

Bastoy: the Norwegian prison that works | Erwin James

PUBLISHED September 4, 2013

When Arne Kvernvik Nilsen was a little boy he had an idea that one day he might grow up to be an entertainer. Instead he became the governor of Bastoy prison island, the first "human ecological prison" in the world. Under Nilsen's tenure, Bastoy, home to some of the most serious offenders in Norway, has received increasing global attention both for the humane conditions under which the prisoners live ? in houses rather than cells in what resembles a cosy self-sustaining village, or what the sceptics have often described as a "holiday camp" ? and for its remarkably low reoffending rate of just 16% compared with around 70% for prisons across the rest of Europe and the US. Last year alone, the island, not much bigger than a breakwater in the Oslo fjord, played host to visitors from 25 international media organisations, all keen to find out the secret of Nilsen's success.

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