The Most Humane Prison….

I frequent time.com’s photo essays.  The archives are full of great photography on topics that I’m too often ignorant of.  Today I came across a photo essay titled: “Inside the World’s Most Humane Prison.”  Click on the photo to go to a slide show of photos inside the prison and the essay.

Photo Caption: “To ease the psychological burdens of imprisonment, planners spent roughly $1 million on paintings, photography and light installations. According to a prison informational pamphlet, this mural by Norwegian graffiti artist Dolk “brings a touch of humor to a rather controlled space.” Officials hope the art — along with creative outlets like drawing classes and wood workshops — will give inmates “a sense of being taken seriously.”

The justice system is broken; and I think most will agree.  The prison system often does nothing more than contain offenders until they are released to offend again.  I think true justice is full of the movement of redemption (how I think about ‘grace’).  It is an act of naming and breaking cycles of injustice, and reconciling that which is broken.  Some may see these pictures and think: “these prisoners are not being punished, they’re being treated to all the comforts.”  But if we really think about it, they’re actually being given the opportunities and the second chances they’ve probably never had.  The thing about grace is that it’s not fair.  It is given to us even in our offenses…and our repeat offenses…and our over and over and over again offenses.  This prison in Norway may be on to something.  It seems like the philosophy of this prison is built upon the goals of healing and remaking.  This photo essay reminded me of the grace that Jesus offers us sinners.  Let me know what you all think of this prison, I’d be interested to know.

-Andy

4 thoughts on “The Most Humane Prison….

  1. I’m not sure. I see the benefit of such an approach and I definitely see that the current justice system is not working. However, I think that breaking the law ought to have some real, negative consequences. My thought isn’t that we should make prison a physically comfortable place to be. Instead, prisoners should be treated with respect and guided into a better life by people who care about them; it won’t kill them to do without tv and colored walls for awhile. I’d be interested to see what the re-offending rate is for these prisoners, esp. those who have committed violent crimes. And, I’d like to know how much this costs in comparison to standard prisons.

    • Yes I think they can do w/out the T.V.s, and probably some of the other things, but aesthetics do play a HUGE role in mood and psychological/spiritual well-being. And I would agree that part of grace is the fact that there are negative consequences to bad choices.

      However, when it all comes down to it, I don’t think there is a perfect formula for getting the desired results of a fully rehabilitated offendor. Not even the grace and forgiveness God offers means every human will accept it and be transformed (with free-will in play). Free will leaves too much to risk. That’s why a prison system like this can’t be justified based off the hopeful end. I think a system like this is justified simply because it TRYS to extend the grace (opportunity, education, enrichment) that can lead to reconciliation (even if that grace is rejected). Grace is justified not because it automatically guarantees 100% reconciliation of all (the Universalist’s belief), but because grace CAN bring reconciliation (only to those who embrace it)…in fact it is the only way to reconciliation and redemption.

      It goes back to the age old question: do the ends justify the means, or do the means justify the ends?

  2. It looks like a fantastic place to live-unlike jail. Jail is something I wish to avoid. Much like the consequences of my actions. So much that I will alter my decisions to avoid such consequences.

    There is an interesting balance to grace and justice. Grace is rescuing the drowning guy. Justice is stopping the guy from pushing more people in the lake!

    I think that you assume that people are generally good, that when they are given a chance (or many second chances) that they will do the right thing. Which contradicts the sinful nature.

    There are always consequences to our actions. That is not to say that we can’t be forgiven, rehabilitated and restored to reconciliation. but all of that may still have to take place within a holding cell.

    HOWEVER, if I do the crime I sure would like to do the time in this Norwegian jail. No doubt about that.

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