March 21st, 2012 15:35 EST
If You Must Do Time, Do It in Norway
Norway, the country which is arguably the kindest country on the planet and which has not produced a mean person since the day of the Vikings, has just opened a prison that provides its inmates with the ultimate in comfort.
Halden Prison is designed to illustrate the country`s merciful view that if you are nice to your criminals they will be nice to you and turn over a new leaf. In this deluxe-accommodation penal institution, each prisoner has his own private room with a flat screen TV, full private bath and mini fridge. The maximum security facility also houses a hobby center complete with a state-of-the-art recording studio, library, a dining hall that would make a few restaurants jealous, communal kitchens and living rooms for prisoners to kick back and reflect on exactly what they did to land themselves in prison so that they can do it again in case they are unfortunate enough to get paroled, and a much needed climbing wall.
Since I need a vacation, I think I will go to Norway and commit a crime. This is the only way I can afford to stay in a place like this. I don`t think the Norwegians quite understand the concept of going to prison, so I think we should have a prison exchange program " sort of like junior year abroad. They send us some of their prisoners who would stay in one of the many lovely state correctional facilities in the reform-friendly states of Texas or Florida and we send them a supply of overworked, multi-tasking women who are in need of a top-notch, luxurious foreign vacation.
The Norwegian prisoners would learn how fortunate they are to have a government so sympathetic with their need to commit crime and the exhausted US women would just get some much needed TLC. If they could put a spa and massage therapist in the Norwegian facility, many of the women might not ever set foot on US soil again or at least for 21 years which is the maximum sentence Norwegian criminals can receive no matter what the crime.
I have watched many a Lifetime movie about people in prison in the US, and even the women`s prisons do not look like a place where someone would aspire to go. But the facility in Norway would have a contrary effect on how Americans view crime. We can`t keep people from breaking the law with hell hole prisons, so how high would our crime rate soar if we offered four-star hotel service disguised as punishment?
I have to wonder how great the quality of life must be in Norway for non-offenders to view their prison system as severe punishment. I think if the US followed the Norwegian model of reform " prisons and built one of these facilities here, we would have to maintain strict rules over who gets to spend their prison sentence in the lap of luxury or else people would be falling all over themselves to get arrested.
I am willing to be flexible on who gets hard time in the new prison except for one type of criminal: no wealthy bankers,brokers or financial leaders, who have bilked millions from Americans, get to do their time in the fun prison. Since they are the lowest of the low and stuck it to so many innocent people, they get to spend their sentences in the good old-fashioned protect yourself in the shower " prison. I think this is only fair.