In pursuant to the Execution of Sentences Act, a sentence shall be executed in a manner that takes into account the purpose of the sentence; that serves to prevent the commission of new criminal acts, that reassures society, and that within this framework ensures satisfactory conditions for the prisoners. Thus the activity of the Correctional Service is based on due consideration to security, purpose and the general sense of justice.
All activities within the Correctional Service are to be in accordance with our values:
Operational strategy for the Norwegian Correctional Service 2021 - 2026
Annual report 2020
Principle of normality in the Correctional Service
The punishment is the restriction of liberty; no other rights have been removed by the sentencing court. Therefore the sentenced offender has all the same rights as all other who live in Norway. No-one shall serve their sentence under stricter circumstances than necessary for the security in the community. Therefore offenders shall be placed in the lowest possible security regime.
During the serving of a sentence, life inside will resemble life outside as much as possible.
The possibility to implement the principle of normality is of course limited by security reasons and the framework of the correctional management, the differences in the prisons and personnel, infrastructural and financial resources. Yet the basic principle is there, and deviation from it will need to be based on argumentation. You need a reason to deny a sentenced offender his rights, not to grant them.
Crucial services for reintegration are delivered to the prison by local and municipal service providers. Prisons do not have their own staff delivering medical, educational, or library services. These are imported from the community. Also different faith and clergy services are provided through the import model-
The advantages are:
- A better continuity in the deliverance of services – the offender will already have established contact during his time in prison;
- Involvement from the community with the prison system – more and better cross-connections.
The services in questions are financed by other bodies as they are part of the rights of any inhabitant of Norway.
Progression towards reintegration
In accordance with the principle of normality, progression through a sentence should be aimed at reentering to the community. The more institutionalized a system is, the harder it will be to return to freedom. Therefore, one will proceed towards release gradually from high security prisons to lower security prisons, through halfway houses and finally execution of the sentence outside of prison unless security reasons dictate otherwise.
Probation is stimulated and the correctional services will try to arrange for a process where serving the sentence is adjusted to individual risks, needs and resources, unless security reasons predict otherwise.
The contents of the sentence
The Correctional services have the possibility to implement a sentence by the court in various ways, and to provide it with various forms of contents.
An unconditional imprisonment may be implemented by placement in various types of security levels. In addition, there is a possibility to serve one’s sentence wholly or partially in a treatment or special care institution when the prison system is unable to deal with the specific type of problems the offender presents, for example with serious addiction.
Under certain conditions up to half of an unconditional prison sentence may be served at home
A full sentence of up to six months unconditional imprisonment may be changed by the correctional services to home detention with electronic monitoring by means of an ankle bracelet. The offender must be active during daytime – through school, work, etc. – and at home at given times. Any breach of conditions may lead to (re-)imprisonment. Home detention with electronic monitoring is also possible as a alternative for the last six months of a longer sentence.
It is possible to be released on probation after having served two-thirds of the sentence and a minimum of 74 days. On probation, the convicted person will need to report to the probation office at regular times, refrain from the use of alcohol and comply to any other specific conditions that have been imposed.
Because of the special geographical shape of the country and its low population density, combined with an intention to let the offender serve his sentence as close to the place where he lives, there is a need for a relatively large number of prisons. In total, Norway has a capacity of just over 3600 cells in 33 prison units with 58 prisons. Almost 70 % of these are high-security.
Norway has no special prisons for those in pre-trial detention. Prisoners in remand may demand to be isolated from convicted persons, but may also ask to be placed in units designated for convicted persons.
The longest prison sentence in Norway is 21 years, although the new Penal Code provides for a 30-year maximum sentence for crimes related to genocide, crimes against humanity or some other war crimes. The average sentence is around 8 months. More than 60 % of unconditional prison sentences are up to 3 months, and almost 90 % is less than a year.
There are almost no escapes from prison in Norway and over 99 % of all prisoners on temporary leaves return on time.
Some 3,600 full-time equivalent staff is employed in the prison service, and around 325 in probation.
Prison officers in Norway go through a two-year education at the Staff Academy, where they receive full pay and are taught in various subjects like psychology, criminology, law, human rights and ethics.
Most prisoners in Norway have an a contact-officer assigned who assists in contacts with third parties like service providers or officials within the correctional system. The contact officer may guide the prisoner to find the most appropriate way to serve their sentence and fill out applications.
Prison staff in Norway is unarmed and consists for about 40 % of female officers.
There are 15 probation offices in 34 locations. Probation offices are responsible for the implementation of community sanctions, like the community sentence, the program against intoxicated driving, release on license, home detention with or without electronic monitoring, and for the writing of pre-sentence reports. A community sentence is imposed by the court and can run from 30 to 420 hours.
The probation office in charge of implementing the sentence will then carry out an intake with the offender and establish the contents in the sentence. This may consist of (a part with) unpaid work and other activities that are deemed to be important for preventing re-offending for the individual offender.
The pressure on the correctional system has increased over the past years by the emergence of a growing number of foreign nationals in Norwegian prisons. This presents a number of challenges for the staff as to language, religion and culture. In addition, a part of this category consists of more or less professional criminal offenders who may cause new and more serious challenges to the security in the prison, criminal activity in or from prison and recruitment of young offenders.
Rehabilitation measures are much harder to impose towards offenders who are meant to be deported to their home country after serving their sentence.
A high number of prisoners have to cope with psychiatric or other mental health difficulties, often combined with addiction problems. The correctional services do not always have the resources and the competency to manage these problems.
Some offenders under 18 years of age, are also admitted to prison. There is special legislation for young offenders and the age of criminal responsibility is at 15. Two specific institutions are established to receive these offenders. These institutions are characterized by a very high staff-prisoner ratio and a cross-professional approach.
In Norway, it is possible to be sentenced to preventive detention. This sanction is imposed by the court on dangerous and sane offenders, when an ordinary time-limited prison sentence in itself is considered insufficient for protecting the community.
Those on preventive detention are convicted for offences that is harmful to other’s life, health or freedom and are considered to be a substantial risk for re-offending in a similarly serious manner. After the minimum period of preventive detention has been served, an assessment will be made as to the continued dangerousness of the offender. If this is found to be the case, the detention period may be prolonged by the court with a period up to five years. Then the process is repeated, so that preventive detention in principle may result in a life sentence. The correctional service have a responsibility to work very closely with the offender towards an improvement in the risk situation.
Those who are found to have been unaccountable for their deeds because of serious psychiatric disturbances that led to them not being aware of committing a crime in the moment of their actions, may be sentenced to mandatory psychiatric treatment. They will then become the responsibility of the health authorities and not of the correctional service.
Researcher Ragnar Kristoffersen at the University College of Norwegian Correctional Service (KRUS) published in December 2020 a memo on recidivism among persons released from prison in Norway 2015 – 2018.
An independent study published in 2010 showed that the number of people who were released from prison and reoffended within two years was at 20 %.
For more information about recidivism in Norway, please contact Centre for Reoffending Studies.
The Norwegian Correction Service accepts international study visits from governments, official organizations, students, NGOs and media working with prison and probation related issues.
Exhibition: Six Norwegian prisons: ideas, spaces and experiences
The exhibition is about six Norwegian prisons, from 1850 through today: the ideas behind them; the spaces that compose them; and the experiences of prisoners. Together, the prisons show changes and consistencies found in Norwegian prison policy and design in this period. They are presented through photographs and floor plans. In interviews prisoners describe experiences of indoor and outdoor spaces, of isolation and common spaces.
Contributors to the exhibition were:
- Sophie Angelis, Fulbright research fellow, 2017-18, University of Oslo, Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, and Oslo School of Architecture and Design.
- Hedda Giertsen, professor em., Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law
- Elisabeth Tostrup, professor em., PhD, architect MNAL, Oslo School of Architecture and Design.
- Zahra Memarianpour, current M.Sc., University of Amsterdam, Department of Urban Studies.
The exhibition is abailable www.sixnorwegianprisons.com/
European prison statistics
Council of Europe each year publishes a report about the inmates in European prisons.
Rules and regulations
- Execution of the sentence with electronic monitoring
- Information for Persons Charged with Intoxicated Driving - Anti-Intoxicated Driving Programme
- Informacja dla osób oskarżonych o prowadzenie pojazdu pod wpływem środków odurzających - Program przeciwdziałania prowadzeniu pojazdów pod wpływem środków odurzających (Polish)
Brochures about isolation