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The Case for the "Norway Model" of Constructive Incarceration

U.S. prisons produce so much recidivism because they're not designed to do anything else.

The United States has one of the highest rates of recidivism in the world. Norway, by comparison, has one of the lowest. 

Writer David Ben Mosher, author of a recent Newsweek commentary column, “I'm a Black Ex-Felon,” told Roundtable's Rob Nelson, “If you have someone incarcerated for five, 10, 15, 20 years, and they're released from custody, and they have no job skills, no job lined up, [and] nowhere to stay,” can we be really surprised when they reoffend?  

Mosher believes that prison programs that teach jobs skills are of paramount importance in any effort to break the career-criminal cycle. Also important is the need to avoid stigmatizing prisoners after their release. “When the focus is rehabilitation, nice facilities, keeping people mentally healthy, giving them skills, [and] preparing them for life on the outside,” the rate of recidivism plummets, he noted. Mosher cited Norway’s recidivism rate of 20% versus the U.S. rate of 77%. 

This stark contrast, he said, shows how important it is to build criminal justice systems around programs and policies focused on rehabilitation.  

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“I did commit the crimes and I served the time, but why am I still being punished?” said Mosher. “When I was released, [they said] you aren't allowed to get a cell phone.” How is an ex-convict, with a court-ordered cell phone ban, supposed to get a job?

“I was applying for jobs eight hours a day, and only found a job [with a] company that had a three-person interview process. Every interviewer thought someone else asked about my criminal record. Later, when they found out, they're like, 'Oh, if we'd known that we wouldn't have hired you.' But by then I was the number one producing trainer in the company. And they didn't want to get rid of me."

Watch the full interview: