bodo prison

Bodø Prison

Bodø Prison, located just outside the city of Bodø in Nordland county, is the northernmost penitentiary in Norway. Construction on the facility began in 1854, shortly after Bodø was granted market town privileges. The prison opened officially in 1861 with room to house 50 inmates.

Construction and Opening

The idea for a prison in Bodø originated in the 1840s from district administrator Peder Carl Lasson. At that time, prisoners from northern Norway were transported over long distances to serve their sentences in Trondheim. Lasson lobbied successfully for a new prison to be built closer to their homes.

In 1854, construction began on the Bodin jail near the Bodø lighthouse. Bodø municipal council provided the site and partially funded the building costs. Famed Trondheim architect Christian Christie Heinrich Grosch designed the rectangular complex consisting of cell blocks, utility rooms, and staff residences.

Initial Capacity and Expansion

The new prison opened formally on May 9, 1861 with room for 50 inmates divided into separate blocks for men and women. Over the next decades, Bodø Prison underwent gradual expansions to increase its holding capacity. Notable enlargements occurred in 1898, 1934, 1953, and 1998.

Today, Bodø can accommodate 242 inmates including 192 convicted prisoners and 50 on remand. With over 100 employees, it serves as the main detention facility for Nordland county.

Design and Layout

Cell Blocks and Units

Presently, Bodø Prison consists of three main cell blocks labeled A, B, and C. Block A houses short-term inmates awaiting trial or those serving under 14 days. Meanwhile, blocks B and C contain male inmates convicted of crimes with longer sentences.

The staff section features administration offices, an operations center, health clinic, staff locker rooms, and more. There are also kitchens, laundries, workshops, classrooms, and indoor/outdoor recreation areas.

Amenities and Programs

Unlike some notoriously harsh prisons, Bodø aims to provide humane living conditions and rehabilitation opportunities. Inmates reside in their own rooms or share with one to three others. They have access to amenities like televisions, games, training equipment, library materials, and daily time outdoors.

See also  Bastøy Prison

Educational courses, vocational skills building programs, counseling services, and leisure activities are offered. The prison has special units focused on treatment for issues like addiction and anger as well as wholistic health.

Notable Events and Incidents

Famous Inmates

While Bodø does not hold Norway’s most dangerous prisoners, the facility has housed several high-profile inmates. This includes politicians convicted of corruption like former mayor Petter Schou Helmersen. Organized crime leader Ove Wittenberg also served part of a 10-year drug trafficking sentence there.

Escape Attempts and Riots

Bodø has been the site of a few headline-making disturbances over the decades. In June 1984, seven inmates attempted a brazen escape by climbing on the roof and trying to bust through the fence using gym equipment. Five were injured during the incident before guards secured the prison yard once more.

The most serious uprising occurred in September 2002 involving 50 inmates dissatisfied with recreational limitations and cell conditions. Prison staff quelled the riot through negotiations after some property damages. This contributed to prompting Bodø’s extensive renovations and capacity increase in 1998.

Operations and Administration

Staff and Officers

Bodø Prison employs over 100 staff members including uniformed guards, nurses, teachers, social workers, psychiatrists, and vocational instructors. The administrative leadership includes Governor Per Andersen along with deputies, unit managers, and department heads.

Staff undergo extensive training to handle emergencies along with day-to-day operations focused on safety, order, rehabilitation, and humane treatment. Bodø has received praise for supportive working conditions and gender equality. Currently, women make up 48% of the uniformed staff.

Rehabilitation and Release

A key aspect of the prison’s mission is providing programs and preparation for inmates’ eventual release and reintegration into society. Prisoners can develop skills, address behavioral issues, and build support networks. Parole boards assess each individual’s progress.

Most inmates will transfer first to halfway houses or supervised parole upon release. Some may undergo electronic monitoring. Aftercare planning aims to line up schooling, jobs, and community follow-ups.

Life Inside Bodø Prison

Daily Routine for Inmates

Schedule and Activities

Inmates at Bodø begin morning roll calls at 8:15am on weekdays other than Mondays which start at 9:15am. They make their beds, clean cells, and enjoy breakfast before starting daily work, education, or special programs by 10am. Lunch breaks at noon for an hour.

Depending on cellblocks, afternoon activities include exercise time, visits, choice activities, dinner at 3:30pm, and more programming options before lights out at 11pm. There is free time on Saturday mornings while Sundays follow a less structured schedule.

See also  Halden Prison

Food and Meals

Kitchen staff prepare three daily hot meals plus evening snacks like sandwiches or fruit. Weekday lunches usually feature fish or meat choices with sides like potatoes or rice. Breakfasts often include cereals, breads, coffee, and juice. Special meals are available for medical or religious accommodations.

The dining hall serves inmates cafeteria-style. They dine together at tables by cellblock, supervised by guards. Kitchen and dining room duty make up some inmate work assignments.

Rules and Restrictions

Security Levels

As Norway’s northernmost penitentiary, Bodø houses inmates with sentences up to 21 years and varying security classifications. Cellblocks A and B maintain higher staff-to-inmate rations and precautions. However, C block residents enjoy more privileges and independence.

Classification determines eligibility for leaves, unsupervised activities, room types, and work opportunities. All arriving prisoners undergo risk assessments shaping their personalized regiment while incarcerated.


Bodø maintains strict policies prohibiting drugs, alcohol, weapons, tobacco, phones, electronics, cash, and other unauthorized items. However, prevention relies more on arm’s length searches and inspections rather than invasive pat downs. Detection dogs assist with confiscations.

Punishments for contraband range from fines to solitary confinement depending on the severity and frequency of infractions. But staff attempts to handle issues through conflict resolution rather than heavy-handed discipline per Norway’s correctional culture.

Impact and Significance

Role in the Local Community

With over 35,000 annual visitors, Bodø Prison offers transparency about Norway’s incarceration system while supporting the local economy. Inmates create handmade crafts and artwork for sale benefiting victims’ programs and indigenous Sámi communities.

Some supervised work details assist the municipality with tasks like park maintenance or snow removal. Additionally, prison staff members reside in housing on grounds or nearby, patronizing businesses and integrating into the Bodø community.

Economic Contributions

According to estimates, Bodø Prison’s operational expenses and staff salaries contribute around $35 million yearly to municipal funds. The inmate population numbering in the hundreds makes up part of the census as well.

Commercial collaborations also drive monetary impacts. Food services order from 60 local providers annually. Moreover, construction contracts with regional vendors facilitated the 1990s expansions, funneling millions into Nordland’s building sector.

Social and Cultural Influence

As Nordland’s sole penitentiary for 150 years now, Bodø Prison profoundly shapes the region’s cultural perspectives on conviction and corrections. Staff emphasis on normalization and dignity challenges stereotypes about incarcerated individuals being irredeemable monsters.

See also  Gjøvik Prison

Additionally, the steady visitor presence establishes incarceration transparency while the media coverage keeps these issues salient. Art shows displaying creative works by inmates also educate the public on redemption’s possibilities.

Place in the Norwegian Prison System

Comparison to Other Facilities

Contrasting the imposing fortress prisons from America or England, Bodø reflects Norway’s philosophy prioritizing rehabilitation within normalized environments. With shared rooms, daily freedoms, personalized regimens, and communal spaces, Bodø diverges from the bleak isolation epitomizing high-security institutions.

However, Norway does maintain some maximum-security facilities like Ila and Bredtveit with stricter controls for the intractably violent. Still, these aim to move prisoners through step-down programs toward eventual reintegration. Overall, Norway reoffending rates rank among the world’s lowest, validating its correctional model.

Future Expansions and Development

Currently, no major expansions appear pending for Bodø Prison besides routine renovations.slowly rising inmate populations could perhaps prompt capacity increases down the road. However, Norway continues working to minimize carceral sentencing through alternative programs.

Interestingly, proposals exist currently to relocate Bodø Prison away from its visibility along the highway. New sites would allow campus-style layouts with more privacy and peace for inmates alongside ample vocational training facilities. Regardless, Bodø seems poised to continue evolving while upholding Norway’s progressive prison management traditions.


For over 150 years, Bodø Prison has anchored the corrections system serving Norway’s northern jurisdiction. Its expanding capacity and programming reflect the country’s emphasis on rehabilitation and reintegration. With Bodø undergoing routine modernizations for the 21st century, this penitentiary will likely maintain its central role for years ahead as a baseline of humane incarceration.


How many inmates can Bodø Prison hold presently?

Bodø now houses up to 242 inmates with 192 spaces for those convicted and sentenced plus 50 remand places for pre-trial detainees. Gradual expansions over the decades increased capacity from the original 50 prisoners in 1861.

What is the typical daily routine for inmates?

Inmates follow structured schedules starting with morning roll calls before breakfast. Work, education, special programming, meals, exercise time, leisure activities, and other tasks fill most days interspersed with some free blocks. Lights out at 11pm concludes the evenings.

What industries does the prison collaborate with economically?

Bodø Prison’s largest financial impact stems from operational expenses and staff payroll circulating over $35 million into municipal coffers annually. Additionally, the facility contracts services from 60 regional food providers and vendors. Construction companies also profit from periodic renovation and expansion projects.

How does Bodø reflect Norway’s unique correctional philosophy?

Unlike imposing fortress prisons abroad, Bodø maintains normalized living conditions supporting rehabilitation. Inmates reside in shared rooms, access ample amenities and freedoms, receive personalized regimens, and progress toward reintegration through transferee facilities. This aligns with Norway’s emphasis on reoffending reduction.

What is the likelihood Bodø will relocate from its current site?

Proposals exist suggesting moving the prison from beside the main highway to allow a more secluded campus layout with maximum space for vocational programs. However, no definitive relocation plans have released yet. Routine upgrades continue steadily at Bodø’s existing grounds for now.

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