Norway’s Halden Prison, Chinese Netizen Reactions

Norway prison Ila landsfengsel.

Norway prison Ila landsfengsel.

The following Chinese article about Norway’s “luxurious” Halden Prison appears to have been translated from an English article on Foreign Policy. There are simplified and complex character versions, with some versions having additional photos from different sources mixed in.

Instead of translating the Chinese back into English, I have used the original English article’s text whenever possible. However, when comparing the translated Chinese to the original English, there are some differences. Some are omissions while others are mistranslations. Some of the more substantial text omitted from the Chinese translation are shown in light grey color. Some of the more major mistranslations are noted in the Chinese pop-up boxes within square brackets. Lastly, I have presented the text according to the paragraphs used in the Chinese version.

From VOC (1 & 2):

Hell becomes Heaven — Norway’s Super Luxurious Prison Life

An inmate is watching television while sitting on his bed inside one of the private prison cells built with en-suite bathroom and various other amenities in the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

Norway’s unrepentant mass killer, Anders Behring Breivik, is now under arrest. And he should count himself lucky for — if entirely undeserving of — a penal system in that country that is among the cushiest in the world.

There’s no capital punishment, and the longest jail term allowed is 21 years (a caveat: if a prisoner is deemed to still be a threat, his sentence can be extended in five-year blocks indefinitely, though it’s highly unlikely, according to Norwegian officials).

In Norway, rehabilitation is the guiding principle, not punishment — a somewhat difficult notion to swallow given the gravity and callousness of his crimes.

“Both society and the individual simply have to put aside their desire for revenge, and stop focusing on prisons as places of punishment and pain,” one Norwegian prison official told the Daily Mail. “Depriving a person of their freedom for a period of time is sufficient punishment in itself without any need whatsoever for harsh prison conditions.”

Norway’s newest jail may hold rapists and murderers, but Halden Prison — the country’s second largest and most secure facility — looks more like a posh sleepaway camp. In fact, architects say they purposely tried to avoid an “institutional feel.” When it opened in 2010, some news accounts called it the “most humane” prison in the world.

Indeed, one of the many perks at Halden is flat-screen televisions in inmates’ rooms. There’s no HBO, though, so reruns of Oz and The Wire are contraband. Still, prisoners get private cells with mini-fridges and large windows to let in more sunlight. Here, then, is a quick tour of what luxuries may await Breivik behind bars. (That’s a figure of speech, of course: There are no iron bars at Halden.)

A woman trainer (right) is running alongside an inmate in the yard of the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) during the time prisoners regularly spend carrying out physical exercise and learning about the human body in Halden, near Oslo.

Prisoners spend a lot of time out of their cells; exercise is encouraged. And in Halden, not only is there clean air but personal trainers. Here, a comely woman coach jogs alongside an inmate in the prison yard.

According to Time magazine, the prison is spread over 75 acres “of gently sloping forest.… To avoid an institutional feel, exteriors are not concrete but made of bricks, galvanized steel and larch; the buildings seem to have grown organically from the woodlands.”

Inmates are practicing instruments in the professional recording studio where they regularly play as a band, built inside the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

Johnny Cash at Folsom Prison? Please. At Halden, the inmates can form their own band. And what’s more, they can lay down an album in the prison’s professional recording studio.

An inmate is organising his desk in the prison library, where he regularly works as an assistant inside the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo. The library is only containing books but also magazines, CDs and DVDs to be used by the inmates.

The well-stocked library at Halden contains not only books but magazines, CDs, and DVDs. What? No Crime and Punishment audiobook?

Two inmates are watching a television program in one of the common kitchen and living room areas established to be a meeting point between inmates and guards and to facilitate rehabilitation inside the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

Inmates share common kitchens and living rooms. Some common areas are designated as places where both inmates and guards can meet and mingle — or, you know, just hang out.

Inmates are taking part to a climbing session during the time they regularly spend carrying out physical exercise and learning about the human body inside the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

The prison boasts a state-of-the-art gym, complete with a rock-climbing wall. No word yet on whether there’s a class on tunneling.

Guards (left and right) are regularly spending time with inmates in various open areas where games like soccer, volleyball and basketball are organised in mixed teams of inmates, guards and other prison staff in the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

Guards don’t carry guns and are encouraged to be outgoing and friendly toward the inmates —

they eat together and play sports in mixed teams to create a sense of family, according to officials. The Longest Yard this ain’t.

The prison dentist is portrayed in front of her working chair while waiting for a patient inside the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

No gold teeth among Halden’s inmates. Not with free dental checkups.

An inmate is brushing his teeth in the bathroom inside one of the single-person prison cells build with various amenities in the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

An inmate in his private bathroom — one of many amenities that make Halden feel more like a college dorm than a prison.

Inmates (facing camera) and their instructor are clapping hands and singing during the time they regularly spend learning and practicing music arts inside the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

Nothing says rehabilitation like rhythm. Here, prisoners and their instructor get down during a music class.

Inmates are trying to use a one-wheeled bicycle inside the prison gym during the time they regularly spend carrying out physical exercise and learning about the human body at the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

An inmate learns to ride a unicycle in the prison gym. Seriously.

A young convict is smoking a cigarette next to one of the graffiti commissioned to Dolk, a renowned Barsky-type Norwegian artist, in the luxurious Halden Fengsel, (prison) near Oslo.

Dolk, a Norwegian Banksy-style graffiti artist, was commissioned to create art for the prison — at a price tag of $1 million.

Comments from VOC:




If prison is too comfortable, then everyone will want to go there, and society’s law will become even more ineffective.


If the Heavenly Kingdom’s prisons were this comfortable, the crime rate would definitely go up.


What kind of world is this… Other country’s convicts are living easier lives than I am!!!


No wonder Norway is judged as the world’s happiest nation.


How is that like a prison sentence? It’s clearly a vacation!


Whether you believe is up to you, either way I believe it.


Let’s all go to Norway and commit crimes~~~


If it were like this in China, the crime rate would rapidly rise, and maybe one day I will go try too. However in European countries with high welfare, the situation would again be different.


[It’s] because the life outside of prison in Norway is even more comfortable.


There’s no hide-and-seek game in that prison, [which means its] slightly worse compared to China. [“Hide and seek” became an internet meme in 2009.]


This is respect for human rights~~ Only when the state respects the ordinary common people will the ordinary common people respect the state~~


Because everyone in Norway lives very comfortably, so for them, losing freedom is already the worst punishment.
If one day Norway were to no longer be so prosperous, then their prisoners won’t be so comfortable either.


Clearly proves that there are no corrupt officials there!


If I go to Norway and commit a crime, does it mean I can serve my sentence in Norway’s prisons?


Fuck, this is a prison?! The whole thing is a luxury hotel! [The situation] within our country and abroad is completely different!

The following photo feature on NetEase also uses information about Halden Prison from the Foreign Policy article, a New York Post article, and Wikipedia.

From NetEase:

Norway’s bombing and shooting case killer may enter the world’s most luxurious prison.

A Norway prison.

Local time July 27th report, the Norway bomb attack and shooting spree killer [Anders Behring] Breivik in all probability will spend the next 8 week in the Ila Landsfengsel [prison] on the outskirts of Oslo.

Norway prison Ila landsfengsel.

According to Norway’s penal system, Brevik can receive 21 years in prison at most, though if at the end of his punishment he is still considered a danger to society, his sentence can be extended in 5 year increments. However, according to Norway administrative officials, such a situation where the sentence is extended is very unlikely to occur.

Norway prison Ila landsfengsel.

Halden Prison is the most modern and most humane prison in all of Europe. The first inmates entered on 2010 March 1, and was officially opened use on 2010 April 8th by King Harald V personally. The prison can accommodate 252 people.

Chapel in Norway's Handlen Prison.

Halden Prison is Norway’s second largest and most secure prison but looks more like a post sleepaway camp. In fact, architects say they purposely tried to avoid an “institutional feel.”

Art in Norway's Halden Prison.

Norway prison Ila landsfengsel.

Comments from NetEase:

嘘你 [网易新加坡网友]:

Capitalism truly has TMD gone downhill!

网易浙江省台州市网友 [xiaminchao1]:

After 30 years of being lost, I have finally found a goal in life: Illegally immigrate to Norway and blow up several buildings.

网易广东省东莞市网友 [落花人独立兮]:

Everyone let’s go there together, meet in Oslo, I’ll take down names…

网易山东省青岛市网友 [maxtop9999]:

Looks like there should be a new internet meme: Go commit crime in Norway!

1806187859 [网易河北省沧州市网友]:

Those who can’t afford a house, hurry and go commit a crime in Norway! High-end housing is limited, first come first serve, food included…


Unbelievable, a prison being so much better than so many homes in our country, here where we struggle an entire lifetime just for a home, the difference truly is too huge!!

9869162472 [网易山东省济南市网友]:

I must make a wish when it is my birthday, to go to Norway. And a long-term residence permit. Live there and never leave…


We have our strengths, let’s not compete with them on this, and instead compete the speed of our high-speed rail. Do they dare compete?


Being kind to the killer is being cruel to the kind innocent people! Norway’s type of so-called “being civilized” is just trampling on the respect for the lives of the kind and innocent!

网易辽宁省网友 [经藏法师]:

Norway’s per capita income is in the top three of the world. All of its people enjoy “from the cradle to the grave” super welfare. Average life expectancy is 81 years.

What do you think? Of Halden Prison? If you have been in prison before, what was your experience?

More Photos of Norway’s Halden Prison:

Norwegians. Personals @ chinaSMACK.


Written by Fauna

Fauna is a mysterious young Shanghainese girl who lives in the only place a Shanghainese person would ever want to live: Shanghai. In mid-2008, she started chinaSMACK to combine her hobby of browsing Chinese internet forums with her goal of improving her English. Through her tireless translation of popular Chinese internet news and phenomenon, her English has apparently gotten dramatically better. At least, reading and writing-wise. Unfortunately, she's still not confident enough to have written this bio, about herself, by herself.


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