Interesting facts

Photos of maximum-security prisons in Norway and the US reveal the extremes of prison life

By June 17, 2020 No Comments
Inside the walls of the toughest prison in the US, a fork is a deadly weapon. Inside the walls of Norway’s toughest prison, a fork is, well … a fork. The differences extend far past silverware. In just about every way, the approaches that the US and Norway take to criminal justice fall on opposite ends of the spectrum.
While the US uses isolation to punish offenders and keep them away from civil society, Norway prefers to rehabilitate its inmates so they can return to the outside world — there are no life sentences. No two prisons make that difference more clear than the super-max Administrative Security Facility, or ADX Florence, in Florence, Colorado and Halden Prison, in Halden, Norway. Not all US prisons are as strict as ADX, and while Halden is technically maximum-security, it’s still closer to the rule than the exception in Norway. Here’s what life is like at both extremes.

Opened in 2010, Halden Prison has been called the world’s most humane prison, despite its official status as “maximum security.”

Halden prison

Driving up to the gate, you’d think it was an ordinary maximum-security prison with tough security.

halden prison
It was designed by Erik Møller Architects with the intent of being surrounded by nature. Prisoners have ample access to windows to gaze onto the nearby trees and grass.
halden prison

By American standards, the interior looks nothing like a typical prison. There are wooden doors with handles and windows, not metal doors that let little light in.

Halden prison
The cells look more like the bedroom of a college student than a convicted criminal.
Halden prison

Such is the philosophy behind the prison: Allow people, even dangerous people, to feel like humans and they’ll behave more civilly than if treated like forces of evil.

halden prison norway
That respect extends to using real silverware. Inmates cook dinner together and eat together. They can buy fresh fruit from the prison commissary and take pottery classes.
Halden prison

A rec room also allows them to socialize and play video games or watch DVDs, which the guards help them pick out from time to time.

Halden prison
Inmates also have access to a gymnasium with several basketball courts and a rock-climbing wall.
Halden prison

At Halden, inmates get similar jobs to those found at minimum security prisons in the US, which may involve dangerous tools. They can also build skills in their down time, such as visiting the prison’s recording studio.

Halden prison
And for people who observe particular religions, the prison has made space to pray and even brings local religious leaders to guide worship sessions — both uncommon in high-security facilities.
halden prayer

More than 4,700 miles away, meanwhile, there’s ADX Florence, a super-max prison that opened in 1994. It’s widely considered the home of America’s most dangerous criminals.

adx florence
Here’s a standard cell at ADX Florence.
adx florence cell

Each cell is incredibly sparse. Due to the tight security, inmates will try to communicate through the drain pipes or by using sign language through what few windows they have.

gen pop cell
gen pop cell

They sleep on concrete slabs and get almost no natural light. The intense conditions have earned ADX the nickname the “Alcatraz of the Rockies.”

shu adx
ADX Florence
Their only real human contact — visits from friends or family — often takes place in shackles and through a telephone line separated by glass.
adx visit

Leave a Reply