Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Economist Films: Prison reform in Norway compared with the US

Economist Films: More former prisoners are reoffending than ever before. It reveals the latest efforts to break the cycle in the first episode of the new Economist Films series.


In Norway according to Business Insider fewer than 4,000 of the country’s 5m people were behind bars as of August 2014. There were about 4,200 Irish prisoners on 30 Sept 2015.

Norway’s incarceration rate is just 75 per 100,000 people, compared to 707 people for every 100,000 people in the US.

On top of that, when criminals in Norway leave prison, they stay out. It has one of the lowest recidivism rates in the world at 20%. The US has one of the highest: 76.6% of prisoners are re-arrested within five years.

The Economist wrote in 2014 that prisoners are often released with no supervision and no help finding a job. That makes them more likely to reoffend. According to a report published in June 2014 by Pew, a think-tank, the number freed with no form of parole has more than doubled over the past 20 years, though this varies a lot from state to state. In Florida 64% of prisoners leave like this; in California the figure is less than 1%.

One US study found that within three years of release, about two-thirds (67.8%) of released US prisoners were rearrested.

In 44 US states the biggest mental-health institution is a prison, and police spend much of their time dealing with the effects of untreated mental illness (see article). But it is not the only one. British police spend as much as two-fifths of their time dealing with cases that involve mental illness, though few have the necessary training. Across Europe, 40-70% of prison inmates are mentally ill.

Badly educated men in rich countries have not adapted well to trade, technology or feminism

The Financial Times reported today that in 2015, the number of over-60s in jail topped 4,000 for the first time on record, more than double the figure 10 years ago. It is the fastest-growing age group in custody and the rise relates to recent convictions for sex abuse dating from past decades.