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Planet Ark World Environment News Norway Puts "First Ecological Prison" on Show

Date: 28-Aug-07
Country: NORWAY
Author: Aasa Christine Stoltz

The Bastoey Island low security prison uses solar panels for
energy, produces most of its own food, recycles everything it
can and tries to reduce its carbon footprint.

Justice Minister Knut Storberget said the most important
idea behind the "ecologically driven prison" is to develop a
sense of responsibility in inmates and prepare them for life
outside its non-existent walls.

Norway's relaxed prison policy is intended to reduce
re-offending by released offenders, and Bastoey prison aims to
bring new values to the handling of criminals.

"On a long-term basis, from a social and economic
perspective, this is cheapest for society," Storberget told
Reuters during a visit to Bastoey island, 75 km (46 miles) south
of Oslo, whose prison has a total of 115 inmates.

"Bastoey is the island of hope," he told visitors, inmates
and employees in a packed church on the prison's property, which
sprawls over much of the island in the beautiful Oslo fjord.

The prison gained international media attention a few years
ago for its living conditions, resembling a summer camp with
activities like tennis, horse riding, and even swimming in the
summer, when the North Sea waters warm up.

Assistant prison manager Per Eirik Lund said running costs
were lower at Bastoey than at more traditional prisons.

"On a normal day, we have five prison officers at work. In a
closed facility, you have two or three officers per 20 inmates,
so this is among the cheapest prison facilities in Norway."

Lund said Bastoey tapped grants from environmental bodies to
help it produce high-quality food. "Most of the food is used in
the kitchen here, but we also sell to other prisons or
elsewhere," he said.

Surrounded by beaches and green fields, the prison grounds
extend into a nature reserve and are popular with the inmates.

"We are given full freedom within a limited area," Erik, an
inmate and hobby carpenter who helped install solar panels, told
Reuters. The solar panels cut the prison's electricity needs by
up to 70 percent, he said.

Inmates said very few of them abused the authorities' trust.
Anyone who breaks the prison rules is sent straight back to a
closed prison.

"This is like a holiday camp compared to a closed facility,"
said another inmate, who asked not to be named.

Bastoey prison says on its website that its philosophy comes
from an old Indian saying: "We don't own nature. We borrow and
manage it in our lives, thinking about our descendants."

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