Overheard on CNN.com: What's prison for?
May 24th, 2012
04:46 PM ET

Overheard on CNN.com: What's prison for?

Editor's note: This post is part of the Overheard on CNN.com series, a regular feature that examines interesting comments and thought-provoking conversations posted by the community.

Norway's Bastoy Prison seems almost idyllic. Inmates have almost everything they could possibly want on the lush, 1-square-mile island except for their freedom.

CNN.com commenters had mixed reactions to the story. Some agreed that getting inmates ready for life after prison is the most important thing - even if it means giving them jobs and spa-like living conditions. Others said Bastoy fails at a prison's most important job, which they said is punishing and deterring crime.

Welcome to the world's nicest prison

intventor121 "Caging of the offender serves a two fold purpose. 1. Takes away the "liberty" of the offender. 2. Protects the rest of society. I can't think of any other purposes for prison can you?

yellownumb5 "Rehabilitate the offender into a productive member of society rather than pay to house them and release them with no prospects or reform only to offend again.

Some commenters argued that Norway's low crime rate suggests that the system is working

max555544333 "I personally think the approach sounds nuts, but I'm no expert on crime and criminals. You don't really need any expertise to see that the U.S. system doesn't work."

Civildiscors "If you think this isn't harsh enough, or punishment enough, and it's rewarding the criminal, look again. If you value humanity and human beings, you will see that they are worth rehabilitating, treating and being given a chance to prove themselves worthy. If you don't value human life, you will say 'just kill them to save taxpayers money,' as if money is more valuable than people. And if that's your philosophy on life, you are surely doomed."

Scooter111 "Norway has a very low crime rate. Whatever works for them. You are twice as likely to be the victim of a violent crime in our state of Oregon and 4 times more likely in Texas. The goal of any justice system is to keep the non-criminal population safe. So Norway is doing a pretty good job, better than we are."

Others, like Goose66 said that focusing on rehabilitation misses the point:

"It may 'work,' but what about basic fairness. Is it fair to pay to house and feed outlaws in a resort-style environment, where they can fish and eat without working, while law abiding citizens toil away everyday and can't afford to buy food or a cottage of their own? When did fairness go out the window?"

RPTX "I'm sorry. While I'm all for lenient sentences for drugs, white collar crimes, and theft, as a parent I could not fathom someone strangling my daughter and getting a 10-year sentence on some resort island. I don't care how "enlightened" Norway seems to be, that is not fair to victims and their families. Period!"

mathews0723 "Where is the punishment? You stay in a dorm and get to call your parents? Sounds like college to me. I wonder what the murder victims' families think about the way the criminals are being treated. I am not a super vengeful person but I do think they should live without some of the extra perks. Geez."

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comments area below and in the latest stories on CNN.com. You can also use your web cam to record your response on CNN iReport. Just click on the blue button below and record your response.

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

Filed under: Norway • Overheard on CNN.com • Prisons
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. ♚Mmmmm♛

    way to go! norway cherishes the dignity of the person...they go to jail...to a peaceful tranquility and like a rough stone that is smooth finished by the passing waters of time the prisoner is rehabilitated. is it sucessful? just review the recidivism rate...much lower than usa...!

    May 24, 2012 at 7:22 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Kelly Rainville

    Well in a way I think it is a great way to show prisoners that there is a humain way to be treated and have the chance to prove that they can and will be a better person when realeased from prison. I think that giving them as much freedom as they have well thats another story pools here and there I can see but a beach no, as for the animals being on the island, well we have prisons that have animals in them like dogs and cats so I have mixed feelings about the prison however your crime rate and recommitting of the crimes they committ are way lower than ours so go Norway keep doing what you are to keep your area free of crime

    May 24, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Albuquerque, Turkey

    Heres a list of opinions
    The Republicans: People who disagree with you, Poor people, Liberals.
    The Democrats: A place for Rehabilitation, Punishment and Conseravtives.
    The Reality: A place to make people worse off then before, and teach them better criminal skills.

    May 25, 2012 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  4. Trisha

    In Arizona I see absolutely NO rehabiltation efforts to help prisoners learn to live in society as dignified decent citizens. Taking away their Liberty and their humanity DOES NOT WORK! Offerring an education in a system where the alternative is to hangout and rot DOES NOT WORK! Maybe treating them as humans and EXPECTING a higher standard of behavior from them, making school MANDATORY, and giving them better living conditions would help! We dont know because we havent tried. The Prisons in AZ are used as CASH COWS! They LOVE repeat CUSTOMERS! Im not going to poo-poo the efforts of another country's idea to use the opposite treatment to help rehab criminals. Alot of them have never been given the opportunity to have self respect in order to know how to be decent people, and became criminals because of that reason. Others are just straight evil, yes.

    May 25, 2012 at 2:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Ubermoderate

    In the United States, prisons are here to create massive profits for corporations like CCA. In our advanced market economy, a guy can figure out how to make a buck off of anything!

    May 25, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
  6. Weary

    Ted Turner really made a bad mistake for CNN and the United States by turning over the keys to a once brilliant and informative news network to a bunch of Republican hacks at AOL! It is sickening on how far this network has fallen!

    May 25, 2012 at 10:36 am | Report abuse |
    • James Mc

      That has absolutely NOTHING to do with this story, and if you imply that it does, be willing to provide an argument for it.

      May 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Cesar The Chorizo Champ Of Chihuahua

    They are for money. They do not rehabilitate, for it is a Crime School.

    May 25, 2012 at 10:56 am | Report abuse |
  8. anewstory783

    I can see that Norway's system may not be best yet but still better for overall creating and even choosing healthier behavior modifications that wire deeply into the mind, new positive behaviors and meanings that eventually overshadow one's own past. The report admits that most serious offenses go to high-security prisons first before being admitted "upward" to gentler conditions at Bastoy. Many who commit such serious crimes know that they still have something good inside of them, and such a prison gives the opportunity to flesh out that belief and organize it into new patterns of thought and movement, release and resiliency. Given space and opportunity, the brain does change. This is an experiment in neuroplasticity of great consideration.

    May 25, 2012 at 2:02 pm | Report abuse |
  9. fourth81

    Let's be honest–the whole point of prison for most people is to lock up the dangers to society; it's not about rehabilitation. If a man murdered one of your family members, would you be concerned about him be rehabilitated, or would you want him to suffer and rot? Prison can sometimes make people who were first-time criminals into professional criminals when they get out. U.S. prisons are just a dumping ground for those who break the law.

    May 26, 2012 at 12:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • James Mc

      There are differing models of punishment/reform in different countries. Certainly penal colonies were setup to be harsh and "protect" others from criminals, but not all criminals are unreformable.

      I agree there should be a punishment that is severe, but there needs to be mercy as well. You live under the common grace of a merciful God (no, you don't have to believe this – though true).

      Show no mercy, get no mercy, pretty simple.

      May 26, 2012 at 1:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Jan Johansen

    I think neither the article nor the discussion focuses enough on what prisoners have to do to earn their way to an open prison like Bastø. Its not normally somewhere you start a sentence, its somewhere to achieve.

    The discussion could also have focused more on how a prisoner in Norway can have his sentence extended if he is still considered a public danger.

    June 8, 2012 at 7:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. Dave Seavy

    Everyone here has valid points. But consider this: 95% of all prison inmates get out of prison eventually. The question is: what do we want them like when they are released? I'm always amazed of the bloodthirstiness and mob mentality – until it's one of your own, then suddenly you want the best deal your loved-one can get. We're fooling ourselves if we believe the US prison system is doing anything other than turning out criminals who are more hardened than when they went in. When you do that, it's only logical that they will commit more crimes. So for all the huffing and puffing, we're getting exactly what we asked for.

    September 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm | Report abuse |