If you had the guess the scene in this photo, what would your answer be? A group of friends prepping lunch? Maybe a local cooking class?

If you guessed prison, then you guessed correctly.

Above, inmates at the upscale Halden Fengsel prison in Halden, Norway prepare food in a common room meant to be a meeting place for prisoners and guards.

From photographer Alex Masi’s Halden photo project:

Individual cells come with an en-suite bathroom, a flat-screen TV and various comforts. They measure 12 square meters and are divided up into units (10 to 12) which share a living room and kitchen, similarly to a students’ dormitory.

The windows are not fitted with bars, but thick glass is used instead.

The prison – the second-largest in Norway – costs 165m Euro and accommodates 248 male inmates. Some 760,000 Euro were spent just on artworks, some of which commissioned to Norway’s most renowned street artist, Dolk.

The inmates can attend a vast range of formative courses at a official high school located inside the prison. Subjects can include languages, IT, science, catering, music, (there is even a professional sound studio) art and handicraft and several sports.

Interestingly, statistics show that in Norway only 20% of inmates (1 in 5) commit another crime and return to prison within two years of their release. 

Read more on the Halden prison at Foreign Policy.

[Photo: Alex Masi]

In Israel it also used to be practice for certain crimes to send criminals to kibbutz’ (communes) instead of prison.  Why?  Because it builds a sense of belonging, an involvement in society and an awareness of the community you exist within.  This creates a sense of empathy and shared involvement which doesn’t prevent crime, it creates a society where crime doesn’t exist.  The idea that punishment prevents crime is non-functional.  You must change the conditions that create crime, not blindly ostracise the people who are led into it.

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