Denmark Opens the World’s ‘Most Humane’ Prison

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Denmark Opens the World's 'Most Humane' Prison

The lofty aim behind the new Danish ‘humane’ prison is to reduce recidivism by good architecture and design.

Storstrøm Prison, located in the town of Gundslev, about 70 miles southeast of Copenhagen, is a maximum-security prison designed to teach prisoners to change their ways. It contains a grocery store, workshops and lots of glass. You might think it’s more like a college campus than a prison. And that’s in fact the idea.

Denmark Opens the World's 'Most Humane' Prison
Storstroem prioson. Photo: Torben Eskerod

It has taken five years to build the prison, costing over 100 million US dollars. It can hold 250 inmates in its 40 square foot cells. In cooperation with the Danish Prison and Probation Service, architecture firm CF Møller has designed what they’re calling the ‘world’s ‘most humane” maximum-security prison.

Related: Be a Prisoner in Denmark

Denmark Opens the World's 'Most Humane' Prison
Mads Mandrup, designer at CF Møller Architects

Mads Mandrup, a designer at CF Møller Architects, says that they have aimed to reduce recidivism, emphasizing on rehabilitation with a typical Scandinavian approach, modeled after a regular Danish village, with open space and buildings with distinctively Scandinavian architecture. “We truly believe, and evidently the statistics support us in this, that a hard and less-stimulating environment creates more re-offenders,” he says.

Denmark Opens the World's 'Most Humane' Prison
Bathroom in Storstroem prison. Photo: Torben Eskerod

At Storstrøm Prison each prisoner gets a fridge, 22-inch TV, long window, wardrobe, a private bathroom and access to spacious communal rooms.

Denmark Opens the World's 'Most Humane' Prison
To reduce the recidivism rate Scandinavia’s approach hinges on creating an environment that’s as close to normal day-to-day life as possible. Photo: Torben Eskerod

To reduce the recidivism rate Scandinavia’s approach hinges on creating an environment that’s as close to normal day-to-day life as possible. The individual cells look more like dorm rooms, and the living areas have been furnished and painted so it doesn’t have an institutional feel. Denmark’s recidivism rate is about 27 percent, roughly half the rate of the U.S., which ranges from 49 percent to 80 percent depending on the crime.
Related: Prison Life in Scandinavia

Denmark Opens the World's 'Most Humane' Prison
Aeral photo by Steen PAulsen of Storstroem prison

“It would be naive to think that architecture can achieve this alone,” says Mandrup. “Therefore, the general master planning and overall functionality of our scheme is a balancing act of creating a human interface, not only among the prisoners themselves but also towards the staff that play an important role in the many daily resocialization routines of the prison.”

Denmark Opens the World's 'Most Humane' Prison
Airyard at Storstroem prison. Photo: Torben Eskerod

Still, the prison is very secure. It’s separated from the surrounding area–mostly rural farmland–by a 20-foot-tall concrete wall. There are over 300 cameras in the prison and the floor plans of the buildings are arranged so that guards can easily see everything.

Read also: Surfing Out of a Norwegian Prison

Denmark Opens the World's 'Most Humane' Prison
Storstrøm Prison is located in the town of Gundslev, about 70 miles southeast of Copenhagen

Not unexpectedly, Danish residents have expressed concern that the conditions at Storstrøm are too luxurious to serve as punishment.

Denmark Opens the World’s ‘Most Humane’ Prison, written by Tor Kjolberg

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