Foreign convicts face separate jails

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Some opposition parties in Parliament want to place foreigners convicted of crimes in prisons that are much more spartan than those housing Norwegians. They argue that there’s not such a pressing need for rehabilitation, since the foreign convicts face deportation after serving their terms.

This relatively new prison at Halden caught international attention because of its spacious, individual cells for prisoners, flat-screen TVs, outdoor areas and a wide variety of rehabilitation programs. Critics don't want foreign convicts to get such treatment. PHOTO: Justisdepartementet

“We don’t need to offer these (convicts) education or other help to prepare them for a life in Norway,” Bent Høie of the Conservative Party (Høyre) told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday. “We don’t need to use resources for rehabilitation of those who won’t be released into Norwegian society, but rather will be sent out of the country.”

The Conservatives have also proposed tougher prison terms for those convicted of terrorism and crimes against humanity, along with stricter terms for probation for those convicted of violent crimes.

Norway’s most conservative party, the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp), has long complained that foreign convicts view prisons in Norway as so nice that there’s not much element of punishment involved in them. Progress Party leader Siv Jensen told newspaper Dagbladet that corrections authorities must use much tougher measures against foreign prisoners.

“Today’s prison conditions can seem like pure holiday accommodation for many of the foreign criminals,” Jensen told Dagbladet. “We’ll get a stronger preventative effect if we create a tougher regime.” She proposes simply buying prison space in the convicts’ homelands and shipping them out immediately after they’re convicted.

With both the Conservatives and the Progress Party holding a majority of voter support in recent public opinion polls, their new agreement on tougher, more spartan prisons for foreign convicts may come about. A government run by them would offer food and shelter to foreign convicts, but not much more. They would differ sharply from, for example, a new prison in Halden that caught headlines internationally for offering all prisoners private cells with flat-screen TVs and a wide variety of activities and open space.

Høie of the Conservatives said their government would allow corrections’ authorities to differentiate between Norwegian and foreign prisoners. Jan Bøhler, justice spokesman for the Labour Party, called the proposal “irresponsible.”

“I think it’s irresponsible for top politicians to propose something like this,” Bøhler told Dagbladet. “Jensen offers a quite slanted version of reality that almost attracts foreign criminals who can think that’s actually how it is.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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