Humane Prisons

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Hi friends. I’ve spent quite a lot of time on YouTube over the last few days, as I signed up for a free trial of YouTube Premium. This means no ads and a considerably better viewing experience. While using YouTube without ads has been wonderful, I’ve still found myself skipping around content quite a lot looking for videos that will educate or inspire me.

And, WOW. I stumbled upon something which had a profound impact on me. I have for many years been a supporter of the idea of a justice system that rehabilitates rather than punishes. As I explained in this post from 2012, I feel that aggressive forms of punishment for criminals only continue the cycle of bullying, fear, anger, and hatred, and do little to rectify society’s ills.

When I spotted a video this evening on YouTube entitled How Norway Designed a More Humane Prison, my interest was piqued. I think that the idea of compassionate justice is so alien to us in the West that I had never really considered places of imprisonment could be humane to this degree.

What the video made me realise is that so much of what I struggle with on a daily basis comes from fear of the kind of violence and oppression that is commonplace in prisons in Britain and America. Please don’t get me wrong. I haven’t committed any crimes. But I realised I have been living for many years with a subconscious fear of accidentally breaking the law in some way and ending up in a prison where I would suffer violence and intimidation.

If Britain were to introduce prisons of the kind featured in this video, it would be liberating in a way that could be really transformative. That underlying sense of fear — which is perpetuated by the media and politicians, I might add — would be lifted, and I for one would feel so much freer — not free to commit crimes, but free to just relax and focus on contributing to society in a positive way. I feel that without the fear of harsh imprisonment most of us would be kinder and better people, because, paradoxically, fear of being bullied is actually the cause of most bullying.

This really is a perspective shifting moment for me, and I hope some of you, after watching the video below, will feel the same way. I immediately feel more motivated to campaign for humane prisons in the UK, and I really hope some of my American readers will be inspired by this video, because I know rates of incarceration in the States are especially high.

As I write this I have a vision of a future where populations do not live in fear of punishment, and where this actually reduces rather than increases crime. This is huge for me. I’m realising that prisons are a major cause of crime rather than functioning to prevent it. Crikey, praise God for this revelation.

I’ll leave the comments open below and you’re welcome to share your thoughts.

Here’s the video:

(Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay)


  1. Great read. Even better shift of perspective. I agree fully that by removing the retribution of crimes against the social contract. Societies will more easily self-define to a self-serving yet common good. In theory less conflicts by extension less people in prison.

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      1. In this transit in time, i agree that constitution’s like prison’s has an immediate need for inventory transformation, centralising the idea that the saclusion is the punishment, not the logistics behind the idea of inventing a modernistic feel to imprisonment. I personally believe that prisoners, deserve to encounter change in all criterias of imprisonment, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your blog Steven, and am wishing you all God’s blessings and insight, for further inventions in creating a pathway of change in this
        area, 😀

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  2. This is an intriguing idea, Steven. Thanks for sharing it! I’ve often thought the “justice system” and indeed the “punishment” system in place really is little more than a giant bullying tactic. Where guards abuse and abuse power. Where they are paid off (in reprehensible ways). Ugh.

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  3. Definitely going to watch this later! Mass incarceration in the States is out of control, and there is a horrible cycle where people who are released end up in their old lives of crime to survive. Meanwhile, the owners of for-profit prisons prosper. You should look into the school-to-prison pipeline; it’s so awful! One of our missions in United Methodist Women is to disrupt the pipeline.

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    1. Thanks for your comment, Lily. I’m so glad that you’re campaigning in this area. It seems to be a huge problem in both British and American societies. We need to pray to God about this, as well as taking action where we can. The pipeline you describe sounds awful. I hope to contribute positively in this area if I can. People are suffering far too much, and the systems need radical reform.

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  4. I work with Crossroads Prison Ministry. I mentor students with Crossroads Bible lessons. It’s amazing what God is doing in the prisons in those who choose to find Jesus and dig into their Bibles, prayer, a new way of living even while incarcerated. Crossroads is a major supporter of restorative justice. They’ve sponsored ideas that have worked with less dangerous prisoners, working with them to prepare them for life. Those prisons who have allowed the program have seen great value in turning lives around and stopping recidivism. I wonder how much money would be saved in our prison system if more supported restorative justice?.

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