Rehabilitation & Welfare


Prisoners are obliged to take part in work, education, or other activities, and receive payment of around NOK 50 per day. If prisoners do not accept the work offered, they can be sanctioned by receiving no payment or less progression in sentence conditions.

Prisons are obligated to provide work or activities for prisoners, but there are not always enough full-time work positions.

Work usually lasts from 8am to 3pm, including a one-hour lunch break. Work includes metal or wood production, small-scale crafts, kitchen work, and taking care of prison buildings and site.

Annually, about 75% of the prisoners take part in work.

Prison authorities employ the work managers.

Eidsberg Prison

Production Hall

Prisoners make products to sell in prison shops in production halls for wood- and metalwork. They take orders, and some make furniture for prisons.
Production is often linked to schools providing certificates of apprenticeship (fagbrev).
Ila has a greenhouse with plants for sale.

Ullersmo Prison
Ila Prison

“For me, my job is very good. But there should have been more for all prisoners. This gives more meaning.”

Small-scale industry room

Small workshops offer activities like sewing, weaving, leatherwork, bicycle repair, etc. Some are connected to school programs for design and craft.
Products are sold in prison shops.

Eidsberg prison


Rehabilitation is one main aim in prison policy, along with punishment. It includes measures like work, education, programs, drug rehabilitation, gym and training. Health care, social welfare services, discussion groups; poetry, music, theatre, and radio productions are also part of this. Rehabilitation has also comprised measures against drug use since the 1980s, including drug handling units since 2007 and various programs since the 1990s.

Rehabilitation measures are seen as a means to reduce crime, based in an instrumental rationality.

At the same time, they are also based in rights by welfare policy and laws. Prisoners are entitled to all public services like any citizen, they have not been sentenced to lose these rights. These activities are also important in themselves.

The Import Model
The import model divides the responsibility for punishment and welfare between various administrations. The prison administration is in charge of control and security, and employs and pays prison officers, inspectors, etc. The ordinary, public institutions are responsible for public services like health care, social welfare services, education, library, etc., in the prisons in their regions. They employ and pay professionals to work in prisons and are in charge of the quality of the services provided.

This model is unique compared to other prison systems. It depends on a well-developed public welfare system. The model has been implemented since the 1970s for almost all welfare services.

Ila prison


Prisoners have the same right to education as any citizen. A school or university in the region administers the education and grant degrees in various fields. Sometimes, teachers arrange courses in crafts, theatre, music, and poetry. In practice, there are obstacles to meet all these rights for all prisoners.

Classrooms may have computers, and limited access to the Internet.

Yearly, around 50% of all prisoners take part in education and courses.

Eidsberg prison
'Ærlig mat' ('Honest food') restaurant, training in cooking and serving, Halden prison

“They have good school programs, you know. You can take any kind of degrees here. So the big things are in order.”

Medical room

Municipal and state health administrations provide health services in prisons, by full- or part-time nurses and physicians.
Some prisons have staff from the state special health services.
Health services are located in specific offices.

Eidsberg prison

Social welfare services

Social welfare services support access to housing, benefits, education, work, etc. Prison administration employs some social workers; the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) employs others.
NAV runs an office inside several prisons once or twice a week.

Hamar prison

“And the rehabilitation [social welfare services]… see, you don’t get so much help in here. This is my [number] time in prison, I never got help before.
If I don’t have a place to stay, they don’t care, they don’t help to make things ready to go out.”


Prisons have a library run by a librarian and prisoner assistants.
The libraries are part of the municipal library and loan books, DVDs, newspapers, etc.
Prisoners borrow books far more often than the general population.

Halden prison
Ullersmo prison

“I use the library a lot. We have a very nice librarian who gets kind of anything you want, anything you need.”


Some prisons have a specific room for religious services. Most prisons have multifunctional rooms that can be converted into rooms for worship.
The diocese council (Bispedømmerådet) employs the priests.
Imams also visit prisons.

Halden prison
Ila prison

Gym & Training

Large prisons have a gym for basketball, handball, etc. Small prisons may have only a training room with exercise equipment. Some prisons have yoga. In some isolation units there is a training space with treadmill and bicycles.

Several gym and training areas are new or renovated. However, access is limited: prison officers have limited time to monitor prisoners while they train, and budget cuts make this problem worse.

The situation is the same with access to libraries and other kinds of facilities.

Often, gym and training take place after work or school, for a regulated period of time. Prisoners usually have access to gym or training for 1 to 1.5 hours a day, from two to three days a week.
In some prisons, prisoners have to choose between going to the gym, the library, outdoor time or other activities.

Halden prison
Hamar prison

“When you are in open prison, you have more possibility to be physical active. And I’m sitting here getting fat.”

“​We have training in the morning. We have a lot of extra training, every Monday and Wednesday, we have yoga.”


Prisoners’ contact with the outside world is limited, and is part of rehabilitation. It takes place in various ways: by letter, telephone, visits, and computer. All are strictly regulated and sometimes monitored.

Prisoners can be allowed to go outside the prison: on leave (permisjon), escorted leave (fremstilling) or day-release (frigang) for work or education.
Some prisoners serve the whole or part of the sentence in a health care institution or at home under electronic monitoring (elektronisk kontroll). Some are released on probation (prøveløslatelse), subject to specific conditions.

Telephones are placed in small rooms. Phone calls to family members are limited to 20 minutes each week, or for parents to 40 minutes. Prisoners pay for their calls. Prison authorities can monitor phone calls.

Prisoners are usually allowed to receive visits, which take place in specific rooms and parts of the building. Prisoners can receive visits from lawyers, diplomats, and ‘Prison Visitors’, and work-visits (arbeidsbesøk) from journalists, researchers, etc. There is no quota for visits that come in addition to family visits.

Prisoners may contact the outside world by computer, to search for housing or jobs for after release. These contacts are monitored. From 2020, the new prisons have developed security systems that allow prisoners digital access to public services.


“We have little—too little calling time. We have 20 minutes a week, that’s not so much. Because if you call you want to talk to people and hear what they are doing.”

“I don’t like to have so much visit when I’m in prison. Because then I just have to remind myself on what’s going on outside and then I start to think about that and it can get a little hard.”

Visiting room

Visits from family and friends are usually 1 to 1.5 hours every week. They take place in specific rooms and areas made for visits.
Visitors can be inspected before they are allowed to enter the prison.
Prisoners are subject to body searches before and after vists (cf. above).

Hamar prison

Family visiting room

These rooms have toys, games, and furnishings for children. Some prisons have small, outdoor yards for children.
Sometimes prisoners do not want visits from their children or families.

Halden prison

Visitor cabin

Few prisons have a visitor cabin where the family can stay overnight, or access to such housing outside the prison. Prisoners may reserve the cabin once a month.
Most often, intimate visits take place in regular visit rooms.

Halden prison
Halden prison

Partitioned visiting room

Some visiting rooms have a glass wall separating the prisoner and the visitor, who are denied physical contact.
A microphone transmits the conversation, which can be monitored.

Ullersmo prison

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