Norway purchased tablets for prisoners so they could contact families during pandemic. Here’s the story

Prisoner in prisonPhoto: Mitchel Lensink / Unsplash
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In April, Norway’s government financed the purchase of communication devices for people living inside the country’s prisons.

Mr. Kim Ekhaugen, director of the International Unit at the Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service, gave us details about the new purchases.

In numbers

How much was allocated for communication equipment for prisoners?

“The government proposed to allocate NOK 7 million for technical equipment, such as tablets.

“The Norwegian correctional service purchased 800 tablets (I-pads), which were distributed to the prisons in April.

“The government financed the measure,” Mr. Ekhaugen explains.

Why was it important to buy this equipment for prisoners?

“According to Section 31 of the Execution of Sentences Act, inmates have the right to receive visitors.

“The purchase of tablets was necessary to ensure that inmates could continue to communicate with family, doctors, with lawyers, NGOs, etc. during the lockdown.

“The implementation of digital visits was important both in order to maintain the quality of daily life in prison during coronavirus pandemic and to ensure that the inmates’ security under the law was maintained.

“Thirdly, it was a measure to prevent disorder and potential riots in prisons.”

How has the pandemic been handled in prisons in Norway?

“This is a very comprehensive question.

“The prisons were put into lockdown mode in March. This meant that:

  • No visits were allowed
  • Summons to prison with lower security level and halfway houses were suspended
  • Intake of persons to high-security prisons was limited
  • Leaves and day leaves were suspended (exceptions could only be made due to extraordinary circumstances)
  • Use of escorted leave was suspended (exceptions could only be made due to extraordinary circumstances)
  • In exceptional cases, the execution of a sentence might be interrupted or early release may be granted.

“The Norwegian correctional service introduced a string of measures in order to ease the inmates’ situation, such as:

  • Extended telephone time
  • Purchase of tablets for online visits
  • Distribution of fruit
  • Increased access to books and audiobooks
  • Access to video games with different levels of difficulty (no games of a violent or sexual character)
  • All inmates were encouraged to exercise in their cells
  • Distribution of information booklets and exercises for yoga/mediation were demonstrated for the inmates
  • Daily quizzes and other competitions with prizes for the winner
  • Involvement of inmates in simple production, packing, and assembly in their cells
  • An extended selection of TV-channels
  • A “Corona-Hotline” for family members/relatives of inmates was established
  • A booklet on the virus and preventive measure were translated into various languages and distributed to the prisons

“Some of the measures were adjusted as of May 18, 2020.

“Inmates were for example, to some extent, allowed to receive visits. On June 22, most of the measures were revoked. Due to the increase in the spread of the coronavirus in October/November, new measures for both inmates and convicted persons were introduced from November 6.

“Each prison or probation office is now entitled to make their own assessments, based on guidelines from the Norwegian Directorate of Correctional Service.

“These measures will be in force until November 27, upon which a new assessment will be made based on the general infection situation.

“More information about the present situation is available here.

Have there been any differences in the prison population during the pandemic?

“Yes, due to the measures mentioned, the number of inmates was reduced during the lockdown,” Mr. Ekhaugen concludes.

Source: Norway Today

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