Music and art may relieve prison stays

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Norwegian police in Østfold County want to install “lydkunst,” a combination of music and art, in the solitary confinement cells at the county’s new police station in Sarpsborg. They think it will make prisoners’ confinement more comfortable and less traumatic.

Prison is usually viewed as a form of punishment after someone has done something wrong. In Sarpsborg, however, the police seem unusually concerned with the well-being of those confined.

Gentrifying the ‘glattcelle’
The cells where criminal suspects are taken immediately after their arrests are stripped-down versions of Norway’s more comfortable cells in prisons that have been described as “hotels” by foreign convicts. Norway has, however, been criticized by human rights advocates for extended use of the police station solitary confinement cells known as glattcelle.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday that police thus want to provide prisoners with music and art inside the cells to relieve any potential trauma. The police argue that they played music “all the time” at their old “central arrest” quarters in Sarpsborg. “We have a desire to further develop that” at the new police station that opened last month amidst much fanfare, said Geir Willadsen, leader of the arrest-and-transport section of the Østfold Police District.

“The fact is that people can sit here for a period, sometimes much too long,” Walladsen told NRK.  “So the idea is to help them pass the time and maybe sit back and close their eyes and think that they’re someplace else.”

Limited playlist
“This isn’t some sort of hi-fi system, and I think the selection of music that prisoners can choose would be very limited,” Willadsen added in his defense of the music and art proposal.  He said “sound artists” developing a sound system for the solitary confinement cells have received “specifications” to ensure that they’ll “pluck out the right music.”

The project is being developed by the state agency in charge of public artworks, KORO, and it’s part of a larger project for art within the police and prison system. Elisabeth Jahn, of the state’s real estate division, said the art and music project is at an early stage.

“The building is brand new and has several esthetic elements,” Jahn told NRK. “We are exploring the possibilities for art n the walls and music. Just how that may be provided, we’ll find out in a few months.” No estimate of what it might cost was revealed.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund