Capital city — Oslo
Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabit…i03/2019/ KDI
Type of government
Human Development Index
Homicide rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)
Name of authority in charge of the pris…i(JD, Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet)
Total number of prisonersi03/2019/ Directorate for Correctional Services (KDI)
Average length of imprisonment (in mont…i2018/ KDI
Prison densityi03/2019/ KDI
Total number of prison facilities
An NPM has been established
Number and percentage of female prisone…i2018/ KDI
Incarcerated minorsi2018/ KDI
Untried prisonersi2018/ KDI
Death penalty is abolished
Organisation of health care
Ministry in charge
Ministry of Health and Care Services
(Helse- og omsorgsdepartementet)
Every prison facility has a health care unit
Each facility has at least one medical cabinet with basic equipment.
Number of medical staff (FTE)
The main types of care provided are:
general medicine (municipal responsibility).
specialized addiction medicine and psychiatry (state responsibility).
The medical team consists mainly of nurses and general practitioners. Some facilities have psychologists, psychiatrists and specialists in addiction.
Depending on the size of the facility, the medical team may consist of between 2 and 17 persons.
Hospitals do not have special wards for prison inmates.
Access to health care
Health care is free
A medical examination is performed upon admission
The prisoner must be examined by a nurse within 24 hours of incarceration. The examination, which is usually carried out within two to three days of incarceration, normally includes screening for transmissible diseases (tuberculosis, HIV, hepatitis B/C)1.
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT), “Report to the Norwegian Government on the visit to Norway (from 28 to 5 June 2018”, 2019, p. 41. ↩
A medical file is opened upon admission
Prisoners can access health care units after
Inmates draft a written request and submit it to a corrections officer. In some facilities, the inmate may submit the request in a dedicated box in a communal area.
Medical examinations are carried out on a confidential basis
Health care is guaranteed throughout incarceration.
Obtaining medicines differs according to the prescription. Some products, such as sleeping pills, are given to inmates in their cells. Drug replacement treatments are strictly monitored.
Hospitalization is by doctor’s orders. The head of the facility directs the appropriate security measures to be implemented (presence of a supervisor, use of restraint, etc.).
Physical health care
Prisoners suffer mainly from mental disorders and addictions. Hepatitis C is one of the most common physical diseases.
The Health Department is responsible for the prevention of epidemic and contagious diseases, such as the immediate quarantine of an infected person.
Risk reduction measures have been implemented. They are the following;
- distribution of condoms during conjugal visits
- distribution of chlorine for the disinfection of syringes
- needle exchange (an exceptional measure).
Mental health care
A person found criminally irresponsible cannot be convicted.
Psychiatric hospitalisation under duress or for a severe mental illness is subject to conditions. Some prisoners, who are eligible for these conditions, serve their sentences in solitary confinement.
In May 2019, the Norwegian government decided to build a psychiatric unit in Ila prison (Oslo). A budget of 18 million crowns ($2.1 million) has been set aside for this project. This decision was made during a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) on 7 May 2019.
About 15% to 20% of the total prison population in Norway suffer from psychiatric illnesses.
Psychologists or psychiatrists treat persons with mental illnesses. Prison staff also receive training.
Inmates may request a transfer to a psychiatric facility. The final decision is determined by the facility’s head and doctor, and the head of the receiving facility.
On 17 January 2019, the Parliamentary Ombudsman for Public Administration (Sivilombudsmannen) published a report on the situation of people with mental disorders in Bergen prison. He criticised the use of placement in “security cells” where contact with other people is very limited. He was also concerned about access to medical care for these prisoners. The argument given for this situation is that of lack of personnel.
People with addictions (alcohol, tobacco, narcotics, psychotropic drugs…) receive special attention.
Eighteen facilities have had small detox units since 2007. These units represent 5% of the total prison capacity. Prisoners can start or continue substitution treatment in these units1.
Prisoners placed in detox units are subject to special conditions. Failure to comply with these may lead to reintegration into a regular ward. Regular wards offer short programmes for addiction management. Prisoners are subject to continuous monitoring and sanctions, where appropriate.
Hedda Giertsen, “Prison and Welfare in Norway” in M. Pavarini and L. Ferrari (eds), “No Prison”, 2018, p. 149. ↩
Corrections officers are trained to deal with persons who inflict self-harm. They monitor them and encourage them to talk.