Live in Prison Everywhere?
Why does Norway have a 21-year maximum prison sentence?
There are essentially five goals of sentencing: retribution, incapacitation, deterrence, restoration, and rehabilitation. The last of these, rehabilitation, is probably one of the most controversial. In the U.S., for example, rehabilitation is considered a secondary goal, after retribution. Americans want their prisoners punished first and rehabilitated second.
This appeals to a societal sense of justice and fair play that has considerable cultural inertia in our country. Any talk of prioritizing rehabilitation ahead of retribution very typically generates complaints about how doing so will endanger public safety, ignore the needs of crime victims, and—most damning of all—coddle criminals.Never mind that certain forms of rehabilitation have been shown through research to reduce the risk of future offending, we want our pound of flesh first and foremost.
The same is not true the world over, though. Norway, by contrast, has a very progressive approach to sentencing that prioritizes rehabilitation as a primary strategy for reducing future criminal behavior. That doesn’t mean they don’t use prisons, it just means that the conditions of confinement are geared toward reducing the risk that an offender will return to a life of crime after release
As the author well notes, not everyone shares American’s passion for punishment. As I often tell my students, one of the reasons we should become familiar with other cultures is that any system that has functioned successfully over a long period of time has to have some good ideas, and every culture needs thought renewal and the occasional shake up to develop. This is one of those ideas that deserves examination.