Fredrikstad Prison first opened in 1855 in Fredrikstad, Norway. Operating continuously for over 150 years, it has gone through many changes and expansions to become the facility it is today.
Opening and Early Years
When Fredrikstad Prison first opened in 1855, it was small with limited capacity. The first cell block built was Block A, followed by Blocks B and C soon after. In the early years, cells were cramped, conditions basic and sparse. There were few inmate programs or options for education and skills training. Security was focused on containment rather than rehabilitation.
Expansions and Changes Over Time
Over the next hundred plus years, Fredrikstad continued expanding. Blocks D, E and F were constructed in the early 1900s to accommodate rising inmate populations. Both security measures and inmate services evolved as philosophies on imprisonment changed.
After a major escape attempt in 1952 resulting in two deaths, security was heightened. More guards were added, fences were fortified and a closed-circuit camera system installed. Further upgrades occurred in the 1990s with electronic monitoring, x-ray scanners and restricted inmate movement between blocks.
Inmate Programs and Facilities Added
By the 1960s, the importance of rehabilitation was recognized. Schooling, jobs training, workshops, a library and gym were added. An activities building with hobby rooms, music lessons and rest areas opened in 1983. Special units for the elderly, mentally ill and addicted were also established.
Notable Events and Incidents
With well over a hundred years of operation, Fredrikstad has seen its share of dramatic events.
Escapes and Attempted Escapes
In 1952, two inmates attempted escape by tunneling out, resulting in a cave-in that killed them both. In 1971, three prisoners successfully broke out by smuggling in wire cutters and cutting through the external fence. The largest mass escape occurred in 1987 when 12 inmates commandeered a kitchen delivery truck during a riot.
Protests and Hunger Strikes
As in many prisons, inmates have staged protests and hunger strikes over conditions, privileges and disciplinary actions. The most extreme were in 1981 and 1998 when dozens refused food for weeks, requiring force-feeding and hospitalization of some prisoners.
Prison Structure and Operations Today
After so many additions and changes, Fredrikstad today operates much differently than its earliest days.
Layout and Security
The prison now consists of six cell blocks surrounded by layers of reinforced fencing topped with barbed and electrified barricades. Guard stations dot the perimeter and a central surveillance hub monitors via cameras. External and internal checkpoints prevent unauthorized access or movement.
Inmate Population and Demographics
Fredrikstad houses around 650 male prisoners from minimum to maximum security classifications. About 60% are short term sentences under 3 years, while the rest are serving longer convictions. Ages range from 18 to over 70.
Daily Life for Prisoners
Prisoners spend their days in organized routines. Wake up is at 7 AM, followed by cell cleaning, breakfast then roll call at 8:30. Most inmates have job duties like kitchen work, laundry, maintenance or manufacturing. Evenings offer recreation, hobbies, therapy, education and free time. Lights out at 11 PM.
Rehabilitation and Training Programs
A variety of rehabilitative programs provide counseling, education, skills development and transition planning. Prisoners can complete academic degrees, receive job training ranging from mechanics to food service, and address addictions or mental health needs. The goal is to prepare inmates for eventual re-entry into society.
Issues and Controversies
While operations have improved, Fredrikstad Prison still faces its share of challenges today.
Built to house 500 prisoners, swelling inmate populations have resulted in severely cramped and overtaxed facilities. The rise has been attributed to increased crime rates and stricter sentencing laws. Makeshift housing has been squeezed into common areas to cope.
Solitary Confinement Policies
Human rights advocates have lambasted the frequent and prolonged solitary detention sentences issued to inmates, many for non-violent offenses. Isolation sentences lasting months or years are viewed as cruel punishment by civic watchdogs.
Like correctional facilities everywhere, Fredrikstad suffers from high turnover and perpetual understaffing. Guards often work extensive overtime. Staff rookie rates are also high. All this erodes security and inmate supervision.
Potential Changes and Future
Fredrikstad aims to evolve its aging infrastructure and outdated policies.
Expansion or New Facility
Planning is underway examining options to expand. Possibilities include adding new wings or modern cell blocks, constructing an entirely new complex nearby or setting up satellites facilities to distribute inmates. Any reboot would emphasize updated design elements to enhance safety and rehabilitation.
Increased Focus on Rehabilitation
If expansion moves forward, Fredrikstad has expressed renewed commitment to boosting inmate education, skills training, counseling and post-release support. The philosophy of imprisonment as punishment would give way to a system devoted to individual betterment and crime reduction through habilitation. Greater funding would be secured to contract more social workers, teachers and vocational specialists. The hope is inmates leaving prison have the tools to build productive, lawful lives.
Fredrikstad Prison has altered considerably from its 19th century origins to the present day. While ongoing modernization aims to improve conditions, there remain persistent and systemic shortcomings common to correctional facilities everywhere. Perhaps future generations will see prisons transform from stark holdings into nurturing reform centers.
- When did Fredrikstad Prison open?
Fredrikstad Prison first began operations in 1855.
- What is daily life like for inmates?
Prisoners adhere to strict schedules regimenting their meals, duties, recreational time and sleep. Most inmates have work obligations like kitchen duty, laundry, cleaning or manufacturing roles. Evenings allow for education, hobbies, counseling sessions or free time.
- How many prisoners does Fredrikstad currently hold?
Fredrikstad Prison has capacity for 500 inmates but presently houses around 650 male prisoners, resulting in severe overcrowding.
- What are some notable incidents that occurred there?
There was a major escape attempt in 1952 that resulted in two inmate deaths. In 1971 three prisoners successfully broke out by cutting fences. The largest escape happened in 1987 when 12 inmates took over a delivery truck during a riot.
- What changes or expansions are planned for the future?
Options being explored include constructing new modern cell blocks, building an entirely new facility nearby or developing satellite facilities to distribute inmates. Any changes would emphasize updated design, safety and an enhanced focus on rehabilitation.