Prisons in Norway are often considered as “models”, mostly because they reflect the Norwegian welfare-punishment approach. The penitentiary system is organized by the so-called import model: the prisoners lose their freedom of movement, but they are still part of the Norwegian welfare state. The Norwegian Correctional Service, under the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, is in charge of the execution of the sentence, but the welfare service (as education, health care, social welfare services, etc.) is under the jurisdiction of the same authorities as for those outside.

There is no official life sentence and the death penalty has been abolished since 1979. The maximum penalty is 21 years for traditional crimes or 30 years for genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Yet, the Norwegian law authorizes unlimited “preventive detention” (forvaring) for people who the authorities still consider dangerous for society.

All convicted prisoners in Norway have the duty to be engaged in an activity during the daytime (work, educational training, program). All prisoners receive a financial remuneration for their work or participation in activities. However, the salaries in prison are far less than the average one outside.

Norwegian prisons have acceptable standards for material conditions. Most prisoners have their own cell with a toilet and can share kitchens with other inmates. Correctional officers are trained based on the dynamic security approach and to prioritize dialogue instead of coercive measures.

Yet, the overuse of solitary confinement is very problematic in Norway, including its use for mentally ill inmates. There are many possibilities in the legal framework to isolate a convicted or remand prisoner: solitary confinement may be a reaction to a breach of the prison rules or as a preventive measure. Norway has also been criticized by international and national NGOs on the extensive use of isolation for pre-trial inmates under the pretext of protecting ongoing investigations. The administration should, according to the NGOs, guarantee the systematic individual assessment of the need for solitary confinement.

Read the report in Norwegian (Norsk versjon)


  • Hedda Giertsen - University of Oslo
  • Oyvind Alnæs - Directorate of Norwegian Correctional Service
  • Helene De Vos - KU Leuven
  • Maria Hessen Jacobsen - Norwegian Bar Association
  • Marius Oscar Dietrichson - Furuholmen Dietrichson AS
  • Thomas Horn - Schjødt Law Firm


Country population



Type of government

Constitutional monarchy

Human Development Index




Homicide rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)