Women and minorities are discriminated in Norwegian Prisons

Norwegian PrisonsSkien prison.Photo: Cornelius Poppe / NTB scanpix

Equal Opportunities Ombud requires immediate action

A recent report shows systematic differential treatment in Norwegian prisons, and women and minorities are particularly vulnerable. The Equal Opportunities Ombud calls for immediate action.


– We see a clear tendency that it is women and minorities who are discriminated against in prison life. It is in violation of anti discriminatory laws that should protect vulnerable groups against discrimination, says Ombudsman for Equality and Anti-Discrimination (LDO), Hanne Bjurstrøm.

LDO has proven that women often are placed in solitary confinement, and face tighter restrictions than men. Women are also exempt from rehabilitation help such as drug rehab, work training and they even risk harassment. The Ombudsman also points out that even toilet visits at night are impossible in some places.

Immediate measures are required

The report also reveals that gays and transgender people at risk of harassment. At the same time, disabled people are isolated because of old and impractical buildings. That way, this group excludes from the community. The report also points out that the mentally ill receive little or no treatment.
For inmates who do not speak Norwegian, there is a lack of interpreters. Moreover, it is difficult for inmates to have contact with other religious and religious communities than the Norwegian Church.
“This is what the authorities have known for a long time. Stake measures must be in place to ensure that all prisoners receive their most basic rights taken care of. This is the premise for the chance to lead a decent life both while incarcerated and when they emit, says Bjurstrøm.

Women and men are seperated

The report is the first comprehensive assessment of detention conditions for inmates who have a protection under Norwegian discrimination legislation as well as the UN’s three discrimination conventions. It comes with several concrete recommendations to the government on what should be done to promote equal prison conditions in prisons.
– The most important thing to impose is that all newly arrived inmates have a proper briefing in a language they understand. They must be able to understand how the prison works regarding procedures, rules and opportunities, says Bjurstrøm.
It must also be an end to women and men being in the same penal facilities, says Bjurstrøm.
– It has proved impossible to combine the safeguarding of female inmates’ sharing the same facilities with men. Women are downgraded because it requires additional staffing to offer the same opportunities to that small group as is given to the larger group consisting of men, according to the former Minister of Labuor.

Less robust

Bjurstrøm believes the unacceptable conditions for vulnerable groups in prisons in practice makes them less equipped to integrate into society after serving time, something she stresses that is a loss for everyone

– I want in my period as ombudsman to make an effort to ensure that the recommendations in the report are followed up, in order to realise the intention of equal conditions in Norwegian prisons, says Bjurstrøm.

– We see a clear tendency that it is women and minorities who are downgraded in prisons. It is in violation of discrimination laws that protect vulnerable groups, says ombudsman for Equality and Anti-Discrimination, Hanne Bjurstrøm.


© NTB Scanpix / Norway Today