European prison officials visit units inspired by their systems, speak to wardens

European prison officials visit units inspired by their systems, speak to wardens
European prison officials visit units inspired by their systems, speak to wardens (Source: Jason Raven)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WIS) - Jan Strømnes is a Deputy Warden at Halden Prison in Norway.

Some people call his prison the most humane prison in the world.

"The way we think and the way we approach corrections and the way we do things in Europe can be translated to the United States with good results," he said.

Strømnes joined other prison officials from Germany to tour some units inspired by their prison systems. They visited the C.O.R.E. Village Unit at Turbeville Correctional Institution and another similar unit at Lee Correctional Institution.

They were invited by the Vera Institute of Justice. A non-profit organization that works closely with different states to improve their justice system. They helped establish the C.O.R.E. units in South Carolina.

Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said, "We haven't had any violence at these units. We haven't found any contraband."

These units are focused on helping youthful offenders in an environment that’s different from what you usually see in a South Carolina prison.

Stirling said, "These young folks are getting their certificates are getting an education, they're getting their certificates. They're learning how to cope with the challenges in their lives."

The European prison officials said they were happy to see the C.O.R.E. unit has been successful in its first year.

Strømnes said rehabilitation in a setting like this can be effective, "It's not rocket science. It's all about treating people with respect like you would your fellow man."

He also said the main focus at his prison is to create a sense of normality - which isn't usually seen in prisons in the United States. "When you change the environment in that way it is much easier to reintegrate the inmates into society later on."

Stirling said with the success they’ve seen at the C.O.R.E unit - he’d like to create more similar units. “We want to expand. We want to continue this. Not just Lee and Turbeville we want to do this everywhere.”

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