Lessons from Norway press release

Think tank calls for the UK to adopt a prison system focused on reform and rehabilitation of prisoners.

The latest paper by Centre Think Tank calls for the government to move towards a new model for prisons based on the Norwegian model. This includes a highly trained workforce in prisons and a system focused on reforming prisoners alongside giving them skills training.

The new paper includes contributions from Former Labour Justice Minister Sir David Hanson, defence lawyer David Rudolf from the Netflix series “The Staircase” and Chris Daw QC, the author of “Crime – Are we Tough Enough?” and co-presenter of the BBC TV series “Crime – Are we Tough Enough?”.

The paper calls for a series of new policies including:

  1. Spend more on welfare, education, public services and support services.
  2. Ensuring prison is only used as a last resort.
  3. Use education as a tool to foster cultural changes in attitudes towards alternatives to custody. Aim to boost public confidence to gain support.
  4. Ensure the unlocking of prisons post-pandemic. This includes access to open air, time out of cells and recreation. To allow this to happen we need more prison staff to allow safe management of prisons. At the same time as opening up we also support huge investment into mandatory skills-learning, education, therapeutic and recreational activities. All of these things will help mental health, desistance from crime and foster a better internal prison culture.
  5. Improve and modernising the current prison estate.
  6. Consider moving to a Norway-style professionalisation of prison officers. Progressives should work together to bring about a reframing of penal policy and punishment (as well as justice more widely) as an electoral issue, as well as building consensus. This includes improving handovers between ministers including possibly bolstering a mandatory portfolio handover process, with better briefing, and reducing the number of reshuffles in the department. We also need to combat the “soft on crime” narrative.
  7. Encourage a greater emphasis on reintegration post-release. This includes education, learning, interpersonal skills, money management, therapeutic programmes and help to re-establish/maintain positive relationships.
  8. Establish a reintegration guarantee as is done in Norway. This means that offenders are provided housing, education, addiction treatment if needed, healthcare, financial support and employment – to ensure they do not reoffend and have the tools to reintegrate back into society.

Lauren Davison, the Centre Think Tank Justice Spokesperson and the author of the paper said:
“The prison system within the UK is failing prisoners, the staff working in prisons and the public. We have high reoffending rates and overcrowded prisons. This is why we are calling on the government to fixing our broken system within the UK by looking to a country famous for its treatment of prisoners, Norway.
Norway shows how we can successfully rehabilitate prisoners, reduce crime rates and create highly skilled staff within prisons. This paper sets out both what we are doing wrong but also how we can learn from Norway to fix our system”.

Torrin Wilkins, Director of Centre Think Tank said: “The report clearly shows that our approach to justice within the UK has been failing and fixing it will require a new approach. Norway focuses on rehabilitating prisoners, giving them new skills and getting them ready for the world of work. It works for Norway and it can work for the UK as well.
The results from this system in Norway include lower reoffending rates and a chance to turn prisoners into good citizens who contribute to the economy. If the UK wants to become a more compassionate and lower crime society, then we must place rehabilitation at the heart of our prisons”.

About Centre
Centre is a centrist think tank and pressure group. We believe in working together with people and organisations from across politics to support public services and to back businesses. To do this we publish research, policies, articles and podcasts along with running events to inform debate whilst also putting forwards a new vision for the UK.

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