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Norway - Eco Prison -

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Norway - Eco Prison

Broadcast: 05/02/2008

Reporter: Mark Corcoran


CORCORAN: A ferry sets a steady course across the Oslo fjord, but there's something a little
different about this vessel. The captain wears the uniform of a prison officer and the crew are
convicted criminals. Our destination is this island nature reserve, now being billed at the world's
first eco-prison.

You've heard of the 'carbon cops', well now meet the 'carbon crims' of Bastoey Prison. Under the
command of Governor turned Chief Ecologist, Oeyvind Alnaes.

OEYVIND ALNAES: Not any razor wire, any concrete walls, no fences.


OEYVIND ALNAES: No guns. So that's true.

CORCORAN: The island is the centrepiece of Norway's radical approach to crime and punishment and
one hundred and fifteen inmates are not just low-risk white-collar types. Nearly half have
committed violent crimes. Bastoey promises personal redemption through global responsibility. The
inmates grow their own food, vehicles now run on bio-fuel and the Governor soon hopes to have the
prison completely carbon neutral.

OEYVIND ALNAES: [Chief Ecologist, Bastoey Prison] We thought that to do it, you know, to run a
prison in an ecological way is the best way of taking care of nature and we also thought that we
can use ecology or ecological thinking as a tool to teach the prisoners responsibility.

[On the island] This is the church, the school building and there is also a gymnasium. This was
also built in 1900.

CORCORAN: Built more than a century ago as a boy's home, Bastoey has a relaxed feel.

OEYVIND ALNAES: We have a football team which plays in a soccer league and we also play indoor
hockey. There's a lot of activities.

CORCORAN: And in the winter?

OEYVIND ALNAES: In the winter we go skiing.

CORCORAN: So I guess some people may see this as more like Club Med then a prison when they hear
those sorts of activities are on offer.

OEYVIND ALNAES: Maybe someone would say this is a scout camp for grown up people but no one is here
because they want to be here.

CORCORAN: Prisoner Sigurd is in charge of the sheep.

OEYVIND ALNAES: Prisoners who work with animals, with horses or cattle or sheep they learn in a way
also empathy because they are living creatures which are depending on them.

CORCORAN: The prison's organic meat commands high prices from top restaurants but for Sigurd, it's
often difficult sending his charges off to the abattoir.

SIGURD: I take care of them. Give them food, water - when they are going to have lambs I take them.
It's a good place to be.

CORCORAN: It may be a good place to be, but he never forgets why he's here.

SIGURD: I was out one evening, took a girl with me home. She tried to rob me with a knife and I
lose my control for a minute and she died.

CORCORAN: Convicted of manslaughter, this is Sigurd's last week in jail. Going home wont be easy
but Sigurd feels his time here will give him a better chance of building a new life.

SIGURD: I got 8 years so it's been a long time.

CORCORAN: I bet it has. And how does being here compare to the other prisons?

SIGURD: It's another world to stay here instead of staying.... in a locked prison people get

OEYVIND ALNAES: This is the timber we take out of our own forest and we cut it up at the saw over
there and we produce planks, which we use to restore the houses.

CORCORAN: It's quite impressive.

OEYVIND ALNAES: Yeah it's a nice house. It's from the 1900's. It demands a lot of restoration work

CORCORAN: This is the reception centre, first stop for prisoners transferred to the island. Many
have spent years locked in a cell. Here they learn how to relax and reflect on their crimes under
the watchful eye of housefather, Prisoner Hans Peter. A professional chef and caterer, he's doing
time for tax evasion.

This is your living area here?

HANS PETER: Yes it is our living room and we watch the television, we play cards, we discuss
everything what's happened out there and have quite a nice evening out here.

CORCORAN: Hans Peter's pride and joy lies in the basement. The big wood fired boilers are now
replacing diesel oil and electrical heating systems.

While cutting carbon emissions is important, surviving Norway's savage winters is just as vital.

HANS PETER: You can start electricity, it is important for us in winter.

CORCORAN: I bet it is! It gets a bit cold around here in the wintertime. So you have your own room?

HANS PETER: Yes and my own key.


HANS PETER: So nobody else can lock me in here. I can come in just as I want. Here is my little

CORCORAN: This is where you live?

HANS PETER: Yeah I live. My TV, my radio, my laptop machine and I see the sea.

CORCORAN: While Hans Peter is doing his time easy, it's still tough for his daughters and wife
forced to deal with his absence and the social stigma of imprisonment.

HANS PETER: That's my wife, that's the queen.

CORCORAN: Your queen?

HANS PETER: Yes. That's my queen. She's fabulous. She's standing behind me and she wait for me
until I come out again.

CORCORAN: Is this a naïve social experiment or an act of environment inspiration? Success or
failure will ultimately lie in the hands of Bastoey's graduates when they're released back into
Norwegian society but on his island in the Oslo Fjord, one man is determined to make it work.

You're very passionate about this place aren't you?

OEYVIND ALNAES: Yeah, yeah I am. I'm very proud of this place because I think we have been able to
show people which have done very cruel actions and terrible crimes, they can actually be in such a
prison and they can behave like ordinary people.