Incarceration rate (per 100,000 inhabitants)



The authorities publish official statistics on prison population


The prison service has a computerised record keeping system


Total number of prisoners


/ Directorate for Correctional Services (KDI)

Number of people serving non-custodial sentences



Number of admissions



Number of releases



Average length of imprisonment (in months)


months (323 days)


Prison density

91 %


The distribution of inmates by length of sentence was, as of January 31, 2018:

  • less than one month: 2.3% (58)

  • one to three months: 9.7% (244)

  • three to six months: 5.4% (136)

  • six months to one year: 13.7% (344)

  • one to three years: 28.7% (720)

  • three to five years: 16% (403)

  • five to ten years: 15.1% (379)

  • 10 to 20 years: 8.4% (210)

  • 20 years and over: 0.8% (19)

Persons under secure detention (108 on a daily average in 2018) are not included in the administration’s statistical table.1

Overcrowding is an issue for specific types of prison facilities

no overcrowding is noted

The country has been condemned by an international court for its prison overcrowding


A supervisory body has issued a decision on prison overcrowding


The administration uses waiting lists to prevent overpopulation. As a result, convicted offenders may wait up to six months to begin serving their sentences.

Name of authority in charge of the prison service

Ministry of Justice and Public Security

(JD, Justis- og beredskapsdepartementet)

Budget of the prison service


dollars - 5 025 231 000 NOK[^budget].


Percentage of the ministerial budget allocated to the prison service

12 %


The budget for the penitentiary administration does not include welfare services costs. This makes comparison with budgets in other countries difficult.

The prison service outsources the management of the facilities to private companies, either partially or fully


The Ministry of Justice and Public Security is responsible for the administration, control and security of correctional facilities.

Welfare services, such as education and health, are the responsibility of the same authorities (municipal or state agencies) as provided outside the prisons.1

The Norwegian Correctional Service (Kriminalomsorgen) is responsible for pre-trial detentions and the execution of sentences at the regional and local levels. The NCS involves three levels:

  • The Directorate for Correctional Services (KDI, Kriminalomsorgsdirektoratet), which handles administrative responsibilities of the Correctional Service.

  • The regional administrations

  • Local prisons and probation offices

Each of the five regional administrations is managed by a director:

  • Northern Region (Sør-Trøndelag, Nord-Trøndelag, Nordland, Troms and Finnmark)

  • Eastern Region (Oslo and Østfold, Akershus, Hedmark and Oppland)

  • Southern Region (Buskerud, Vestfold and Telemark)

  • South-Western Region (Rogaland, Vest-Agder and Aust-Agder)

  • Western Region (Hordaland, Sogn og Fjordane and Møre og Romsdal)

  1. Hedda Giertsen, “Prison and Welfare in Norway”; in M. Pavarini and L. Ferrari (eds), No Prison, 2018, pp. 147-148. 

The applicable detention regimes are the following :

  • Minimum security: Inmates serve their sentences in an open prison or halfway house (overgangsbolig).

  • High security: Two out of three inmates fall under this system in which they are held in a closed institution.

  • Special high security: Inmates are placed in strict and secure quarters or cells. Sentencing under this system is decided by the director of the facility or prison administration.

  • Secure detention(Forvaring): Persons detained under this system are guilty of serious crimes or may, according to the authorities, reoffend. The court must limit its duration to a maximum of five years before reassessment), but the measure may be renewed indefinitely. Prisoners placed in secure detention are assigned to a specific prison or wing. Most of them stay in Ila prison (men) or Bredtveit prison (women). The daily average was 108 persons in 2018.

A convicted person could, under an agreement between Norway and the Netherlands, serve their sentence in the Netherlands. They would be subject to the same rights and duties (Execution of Sentences Act, section 1). The agreement expired on August 31, 2018.

The different categories of correctional facilities are:

  • High security facilities (closed facilities): 64% of the prison facilities.

  • Minimum security facilities (open and halfway houses): 36% of the prison facilities. The total number of places in halfway houses is 128.

Closed facilities are enclosed by a wall or high fence. Cells are always closed. Prisoners remain in the cells when they are not working or participating in training programmes or other activities. Cells are inspected daily. These usually house prisoners beginning their sentences.

Security in open facilities is less restrictive. Buildings remain open during the day and are closed at night. Inmates have keys to their cells day and night. They are only confined by the surrounding wall. They can share spaces with other inmates.

Inmates are usually transferred to a lower security facility one year prior to their release. A prisoner may be placed, for a sentence of less than two years, directly into an open facility.

Prisoners may, after serving part of their sentence, be transferred to a halfway house (overgangsbolig). This is also applicable to persons sentenced to serve less than one year.

Halfway houses are correctional facilities. They are equipped with checkpoints though there are fewer restrictions. The staff ensures the particular care of the needs of each individual regarding accommodation, work and social reintegration prior to release are handled.

Total number of prison facilities


consisting of 64 units


Total official capacity of the prison facilities



Variation in the capacity of the prison facilities


242 prison cells closed in 2018 due to termination of the rental agreement for Norgerhaven prison I.

The size of the facilities does not vary significantly. The average capacity is 70 places. The largest facility is the Ullersmo wing of Romerike Prison (286 places); the smallest is Håvet in Arendal prison (13 places).1

  1. There are 64 prisons in the penitentiary system, grouped in 38 penitentiary units. A penitentiary unit may comprise both open and closed facilities. The capacity of each facility is calculated independently of the unit’s total capacity. 

Correctional facilities are located predominantly in the south-eastern part of the country where most of the Norwegian population resides.

There are few prisons in the Northern Region (seven) and they have a low capacity. Prisoners from this region often serve far from home, which reduces the possibility of visits.

Most of the facilities, built at the end of the 19th century, are located on the outskirts of the cities. Those built after 1930 are located far from urban centres. Post-2000 institutions are in town.

Number of prison guards (FTE)



Guard to prisoner ratio

1 : 1.3

/ SPACE, p. 78.

The prison staff is represented by (a) union(s)


There are two unions representing correctional staff:

  1. The NFF (Norsk Fengsels- og Friomsorgsforbund): Norwegian Prison and Probation Officer’s’ Union, 3 500 members. The NFF is part of LO, the largest of the Norwegian trade union centres (930,000 members).

  2. The KY (Kriminalomsorgens yrkesforbund): Professional Federation of the Norwegian Correctional Service, 1 700 members.

Prison guards take part in a two-year degree programme in “correctional studies” at the Correctional Service of Norway Staff Academy(KRUS, Kriminalomsogens høgskole og utdanningssenter).

The core subjects taught are psychology, psychiatry and law.

Candidates must complete one year of service as a corrections officer after completing the programme. Following successful completion, they are confirmed as staff.

The criteria to participate in the training programme are as follows:

  • Be at least 20 years old;

  • Have at least a high school diploma;

  • Hold a class B driver’s license;

  • Be in good physical and mental health;

  • Pass a physical fitness test including strength and endurance tests;

  • Have a clean criminal record.

Staff remuneration is “reasonable” in relation to the cost of living and living conditions.

The import model (importmodell), introduced in the 1970s and 1980s, advises on staff organisation. According to Hedda Giertsen, it supports and reinforces the principle “that prisoners retain their rights as citizens, with the exception of freedom of movement “.

Prison staff are organized into two main groups:

  • Staff in charge of prison tasks (surveillance, inspection, management) and social workers, who are under the responsibility of the Correctional Service.

  • Staff in charge of activities and rehabilitation; they are non-penitentiary staff working inside and outside the prisons and are under the responsibility of the municipal and national authorities1.

  1. Hedda Giertsen , “Prison and Welfare in Norway”; in M. Pavarini and L. Ferrari (eds), No Prison, 2018, pp. 147-148.