Bjørgvin Prison, located in Bergen, Norway, is the largest maximum-security correctional facility in the western region of the country. With space for over 250 male inmates convicted of serious crimes, Bjørgvin plays an integral role in Norway’s prison and judicial systems.
History and Background
Construction of Bjørgvin Prison was completed in early 2001 after three years of development. The $45 million complex was built to replace antiquated and overcrowded prison facilities in Bergen dating back to the 19th century. Bjørgvin was specifically designed to modern standards emphasizing rehabilitation and vocational training opportunities for inmates.
The new prison facility also provided increased cell space and capacity compared to Bergen’s old jails. Additional buildings were added in 2006 to accommodate more inmates and expand the prison’s facilities.
Location and Layout
Bjørgvin Prison is situated approximately 8 kilometers outside of central Bergen along the coastal road leading to the city’s airport. The multi-building complex features a rectangular layout enclosed by towering concrete walls topped with coiled barbed wire.
Details on Cell Blocks
The prison has six cell blocks labeled A-F, providing both single and double occupancy cells. The average cell measures 8 square meters. Cell amenities include beds, desks, shelving, sinks, and toilets. Televisions are permitted in some cells. Windows offer views outdoors.
Common Areas and Facilities
Inside the cell blocks are common spaces like day rooms and recreation areas. The prison has a library, chapel, gymnasium, outdoor exercise yards, kitchen, infirmary, visiting center, and workshops for vocational activities. Administrative offices are located just outside the main security gate.
Security and Control Systems
As a maximum security facility, Bjørgvin utilizes extensive security measures and restrictive protocols. Inmates are under constant video surveillance with hundreds of CCTV cameras located inside cell blocks and throughout the exterior. Movement requires escorts by prison officers. High concrete walls and electronic security gates monitor all access points.
Daily Life for Inmates
Inmates at Bjørgvin follow a highly structured daily schedule dictated by the prison administration. Meals, exercises, activities, and free time are routine events determined by guards based on good behavior.
Daily Routine and Schedule
The daily schedule starts early with breakfast followed by room inspections. Inmates attend educational courses, job training programs, or work assignments after morning assembly. Lunch takes place around 11:30am. Afternoons include more activities, exercise, and free time. Cells are locked around 9:00pm for lights out.
Food and Meals
Inmates are provided three meals per day in the communal dining hall. Food quality aims to provide healthy sustenance. Typical entrees include fish, meat, stews, sandwiches, pasta, vegetables, soups, and potatoes. Special meals address dietary restrictions while monthly pizza meals reward good conduct.
Access to Exercise and Activities
Bjørgvin offers indoor and outdoor areas for exercise and sports conducted under supervision. The prison gym has weights and cardio equipment. Inmates can play handball, soccer, or basketball on the outdoor courts. The prison library provides books, magazines, computers, games, and movies during free time.
Contact with Outside World
Inmates can receive visitors during set hours on weekends and holidays. Families and friends must arrange visits ahead of time. Phone calls are allowed several times per week based on good behavior, enabling contact with loved ones unable to visit in person. Letters are typically delivered within a day.
Rehabilitation and Education Programs
A key aspect of Norwegian incarceration guiding Bjørgvin’s operations is an emphasis on rehabilitation through education and skills development. Various voluntary programs prepare inmates for potential early release and reentry into society.
Overview of Programs Offered
Classes provide education on politics, social studies, science, and other academic subjects. Vocational courses teach useful job skills like auto repair, welding, construction, cooking, cleaning, and woodworking. Rehabilitative counseling addresses substance abuse and aggression issues.
Inmates working towards high school certification take courses in literature, writing, math, history, and languages. College-level classes are available in certain disciplines. Law and personal finance classes provide practical knowledge. Computer skills and coding gives technological familiarity.
Job Training Opportunities
Hands-on job training programs offer instruction from qualified trade professionals. Auto mechanic workshops teach engine repair and maintenance. Construction courses provide an overview of carpentry, electrical systems, masonry, plumbing, and architecture. Food service classes provide kitchen experience.
Addiction Counseling and Support
Many inmates struggle with drug, alcohol, or anger problems requiring counseling. Certified therapists and addiction specialists conduct individual and group talk therapy sessions. Prescription medications combined with psychosocial support mechanisms teach healthy coping strategies.
Staff and Personnel
The operation of Bjørgvin Prison relies on different categories of staff members each handling specialized roles. Uniform personnel directly interact with inmates daily while civilian employees work remotely in administrative capacities.
Uniformed guards trained in security protocols maintain order and enforce rules among inmates in cell blocks, common areas, and during transport. Officers conduct hourly patrols and perimeter checks alongside video monitoring. Special response teams equip guards to handle incidents.
Behind-the-scenes office workers occupy management roles related to finances, human resources, maintenance logistics, program coordination, and more. Wardens and governors oversee high-level decision making and planning. Secretaries and clerks handle paperwork.
Medical and Welfare Staff
Doctors, psychiatrists, nurses, and physical therapists work on site full time to address inmate medical issues, distribute medications, provide addiction support, and promote overall wellness. Counselors offer additional mental health services. Social workers assist soon-to-be released inmates.
Controversies and Issues
While Bjørgvin Prison aims to serve as a model correctional facility emphasizing progressive rehabilitation approaches, several ongoing controversies highlight issues in need of improvement.
As Norway’s prison population grows, overcrowding strains Bjørgvin’s capacity creating cramped living conditions and resource limitations. Cells intended for single occupancy often house two inmates with shared toilets and minimal privacy. Common areas get overfilled.
Incidents Between Guards and Inmates
Flare ups between inmates and guards periodically trigger violent encounters, use of force incidents, and disciplinary sanctions resulting from noncompliance or aggression issues among prisoners. Human rights advocates condemn many occurrences as examples of unnecessary brutality and abuse of power by prison staff.
Drug Smuggling into Facility
Despite strict security measures, some inmates still manage to smuggle illicit substances like drugs, alcohol, and cigarettes obtained from visitors or staff. Trafficking contraband remains an ongoing impediment to rehabilitation efforts and safety within the facility. Heightened penalties and surveillance technology aim to deter these activities.
As Norway’s largest maximum-security penitentiary, Bjørgvin Prison plays a crucial role in the criminal justice system by incarcerating high-risk convicted felons from Bergen and the surrounding region. Its aims to provide structure, security, and opportunities for rehabilitation through education and skills training. However, issues like overcrowding, guard-prisoner conflicts, and contraband smuggling illustrate areas needing improvement. Incremental reforms seek to address these controversies. Ultimately, the effectiveness of Bjørgvin Prison requires balancing punitive measures with humanity.
How many inmates does Bjørgvin Prison hold?
Bjørgvin’s maximum capacity is around 250 male inmates in both single and double occupancy cells. Current expansion projects aim to add space for 300 more prisoners.
What types of criminals get housed in Bjørgvin Prison?
As a maximum security facility, Bjørgvin incarcerates inmates convicted of serious crimes like murder, rape, aggravated assault, armed robbery, major white collar offenses, and high-volume drug distribution.
How do inmates spend their time on a daily basis in Bjørgvin Prison?
The highly structured schedule involves meals, inspections, educational classes, job training, exercise hours, activities, scheduled free time, and lights out at 9 pm when cells are locked for the night. Movement requires escorts.
Are medical and mental health services available for inmates while incarcerated at Bjørgvin?
Yes, doctors, nurses, psychiatrists, counselors, therapists, and social workers provide physical and mental healthcare to address medical issues, distribute medications, offer addiction support, and promote overall wellness.
What measures aim to keep contraband like drugs out of Bjørgvin Prison?
Tactics include perimeter fencing, CCTV surveillance, cell searches and patrols, strict visitor screening, drug-sniffing dogs, body scanning equipment, and penalties for smuggling offenses by visitors, inmates, or corrupt staff.