Prisons and probation offices are required to follow national and local measures and recommendations. In the case of prisons and probation offices in areas with high infection rates, it will be appropriate to follow stricter practices than those followed in areas with low infection rates.
When the level of measures in the municipalities changes, prisons and probation offices must also consider whether they need to revise their own measures. In the event of a local outbreak, the units must implement the necessary measures given the level of measures that has been determined for the geographical area concerned.
The Norwegian correctional service has established a hotline where relatives and family members of inmates and persons in custody can obtain general informattion about the Norwegian Correctional Service and also about the handling of the Corona crisis.
You may be anonymous when you phone the hotline. The hotline is not meant for general questions about Covid-19. Such questions should be referred to official national channels established by the national health authorities. The hotline is not meant for questions concerning individuals or specific prisons. If needed, family members and relatives will be referred to the facility in question.
The hotline is open weekdays from 0900-1500.
Following a specific assessment, the Norwegian Correctional Service may refuse to permit a visit to a prison if the visit would entail a particular risk of infection or a health hazard, or if it would be disproportionately difficult to arrange the visit as a result of absence due to illness amongst prison staff.
As a result of the prevailing national situation, the provision must now be practised restrictively, even in areas with low infection rates. Visits must now be limited wherever possible within the framework of the legislation (Section 45 a of the Act relating to the execution of sentences, etc.). Prisons must facilitate visits which are as safe as possible from an infection control perspective, for example by using glass partitions during visits.
Wherever possible, prisons must offer inmates compensatory measures, including the possibility of keeping in touch with their next of family and relatives digitally.
Visits by children
The Norwegian Correctional Service is committed to enabling children to keep in contact with a parent who is serving a prison sentence, provided it is in the best interests of the child. This means that children should normally be given priority as regards prison visits when access for visitors must otherwise be restricted.
Unfortunately, as the situation is now nationwide, it is now necessary to enforce the rules more strictly as regards children making physical visits. However, an individual assessment must be made of the child's needs and the infection risk that the child poses.
It may for example be relevant to take into account any local outbreaks and whether there are any known cases of infection in the child's social circle at kindergarten, school, etc. Consideration must always be given to whether or not there are special considerations which mean that the child should be permitted to visit a parent subject to the necessary infection control measures.
Consideration should also be given to how the child will respond to and follow the applicable infection control measures and whether or not a video meeting would be a better way of facilitating contact.
Visits by lawyers, government officials and supervisory authorities
There is a very high threshold for refusing lawyers and official representatives of government authorities access to a prison (see Section 45(a) second paragraph). However, this group of visitors should also be encouraged to communicate with inmates digitally wherever possible. However, if physical attendance is necessary, the prisons must organise the visit so that it is safe from an infection control perspective.
Under no circumstances must supervisory authorities, such as supervisory councils, the parliamentary ombudsman, fire service, etc., be refused access to a prison.
Following a specific assessment, the Norwegian Correctional Service may refuse to grant leave or day release for an inmate, or reverse a decision to grant leave or day release, if the leave or day release would probably entail a risk of infection or a danger to health.
As a general rule, leave that is not to be spent in the person’s own home and "unnecessary travel" should be avoided. Prisons should exercise particular caution when granting leave from an area with a low infection rate to an area with a high infection, in order to prevent the spread of infection in the prison upon return from leave. The Norwegian Correctional Service may also impose conditions for leave based on infection control considerations. This could for example be the granting of leave subject to the condition that public transport is not used or that the inmate must avoid crowded areas.
Where inmates go on day release in order carry out to regular, paid work, such restrictions must not cause inmates to lose their job. Conditions may be imposed in order to limit the risk of infection and health hazards during the day release (see the point above regarding leave).
When assessing whether a prison should grant escorted leave, emphasis must be placed on the actual need for the escorted leave, the infection situation and the staffing situation within the unit.
Postponement of the execution of a sentence may be considered if the convicted person has an appointment with a health care provider to be vaccinated, or if the first dose has been administered and the convicted person is waiting for their second dose.
In such cases, the application must be assessed on an individual basis. Factors to be considered include the individual’s situation, the infection rate in the area concerned, the form of execution of service the convicted person will receive, security measures, the length of the sentence and the category of offence.
Following a specific assessment, the Norwegian Correctional Service may completely or partially prohibit inmates from social contact with other inmates if the following two conditions are met:
- There is a “decision pursuant to the Infection Control Act stating that the inmate must be in isolation or quarantine”, or that “an inmate has symptoms that are consistent with COVID-19”.
- The exclusion is "necessary to prevent infection" and "exclusion is not considered to be a disproportionate measure."
Wherever possible, prisons must offer inmates compensatory measures, including the possibility of keeping in touch with their family and relatives digitally.
The Norwegian Correctional Service also asks units to ensure that all inmates are given 10 minutes of free call time per week in addition to their normal call time.
Other possible measures include allowing inmates to work in their cells, access to games, books, etc. in the cell, as well as giving them extended time in the fresh air and outdoor physical exercise, etc.