Many right wingers, particularly those in the United States, are now bemoaning Norway’s criminal justice system, noting that the country uses a maximum sentencing law that typically only allows prisoners to be jailed for 21 years (although prisoners can be held for additional five-year sentences if they are deemed dangerous). “Most murderers in Norway spend just 14 years behind bars. The terrorist is 32 years old. He will get out when he’s 53. That means he’s serving about 3 months for every person he murdered. Justice?” asked a blogger at Big Peace.
Yet before Americans rush to judge Norway’s criminal justice system — which relies far less on punitive measures than ours and that has a strong focus on rehabilitation — they should look at the results it produces. Norway is one of the safest countries on earth, boasting some of the world’s lowest crime rates:
- Norway Has Some Of The Lowest Murder Rates In The World: In 2009, Norway had .6 intentional homicides per 100,000 people. In the same year, the United States had 5 murders per 100,000 people, meaning that the U.S. proportionally has 8 times as many homicides.
- Norway’s Incarceration Rate Is A Fraction Of That Of The United States: 71 out of every 100,000 Norwegian citizens is incarcerated. In the United States, 743 out of every 100,000 citizens was incarcerated in 2009. The U.S. has the world’s highest incarceration rate.
- Norway’s Prisoner Recidivism Rate Is Much Lower Than The United States’: The recidivism rate for prisoners in Norway is around 20 percent. Meanwhile, it’s estimated that 67 percent of America’s prisoners are re-arrested and 52 percent are re-incarcerated.
While many Americans may have an understandable emotional reaction to a country that strives to treat even the most heinous of murderers humanely, they should also be aware of the fact that Norway’s criminal justice system appears to have produced a nation that is much safer and imprisons far less of its people than the United States or just about any other country.