The world's nicest prison is said to be a summer vacation getaway like facility in Norway. Prisoners have their owns keys to "rooms" and there are no armed guards or fences.
There's a beach where prisoners sunbathe in the summer, plenty of good fishing spots, a sauna and tennis courts. Horses roam gravel roads. Some of the 115 prisoners here -- all men and serving time for murder, rape and trafficking heroin, among other crimes -- stay in wooden cottages, painted cheery red. They come and go as they please. Others live in "The Big House," a white mansion on a hill that, on the inside, looks like a college dorm. A chicken lives in the basement, a guard said, and provides eggs for the inmates.
There are few rules here. Prisoners can have TVs in their rooms, provided they bring them from "outside" when they're sentenced. They wear whatever clothes they want: jeans, T-shirts. One man had a sweater with pink-and-gray horizontal stripes, but that's as close as it got to the jailbird look. Even guards aren't dressed in uniform, which makes conducting interviews tricky. It's impossible to tell an officer from a drug trafficker.
Everyone at Bastoy has a job, and prisoners must report to work from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. weekdays. Some people garden; others farm. Some chop down trees and slice them into firewood (It's hard not to think about the wood chipper scene in "Fargo" when you see inmates filleting tree trunks with an enormous circular saw). Others tend to a team of horses, which are used to cart wood and supplies from one part of the island to another. Everyone moves about freely during these tasks. Guards are sometimes present, sometimes not. No one wears shackles or electronic monitoring bracelets.
The idea is for prison to function like a small, self-sustaining village.
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