In the US, prison is synonymous with punishment.
That’s not the case in all countries around the world, where many prisons are built to rehabilitate even the most violent offenders or sometimes house people who haven’t committed any crimes.
The amenities in these places can get pretty swanky – relatively speaking. Think pristine basketball gyms in Norway or pool tables in Wales.
Here are a dozen prisons around the world that redefine what it means to be locked up.
In Finland, Suomenlinna Prison has no barbed wire to keep inmates within its borders. Instead, there is a small picket fence. For that reason, it is often called the “open prison.”
- Criminal Sanctions Agency, Finland
Source: This is Finland
In nearby Norway, Halden Prison lets inmates cook, play video games, shoot hoops, and sleep on plush beds. Rooms look more like college dorms than cells. The idea is to treat convicts like people, so they will re-enter society in a healthy mindset.
- Trond Isaksen / Statsbygg
Source: The New York Times
Like Halden, the Otago Corrections Facility in New Zealand looks more like a teenager’s bedroom than a prison. There are health facilities and a library designed to keep people feeling like members of society.
- Department of Corrections NZ
Source: Otago Daily Times
San Pedro Prison, located in La Paz, Bolivia, has for 20 years served as a kind of micro-city for 3,000 inmates and their families. Drug trade keeps families afloat financially, and the prison hotel gives guests a place to stay.
- Wikimedia Commons
Source: The Daily Beast
Refugees are fleeing to the Netherlands by the thousands. To smooth their transition, De Koepel prison has been turned into an asylum. It’s one of more than a dozen prisons that has closed due to falling crime rates.
Source: Business Insider
Austria’s Justice Center isn’t like most prisons, architecturally speaking. It was designed by Joseph Hohensinn to let in ample light. There are two inscriptions by the entrance, each affirming inmates’ right to dignity and humanity.
- Wikimedia Commons
Spain’s Aranjuez Prison lets parents and children stay with their incarcerated family members. With Disney characters on the walls, a nursery, and a playground, the goal is to prevent kids from realizing, as long as possible, that a parent is behind bars.
Source: Associated Press
Pondok Bambu Prison, in Indonesia, is a women’s prison that makes luxury rooms available for purchase; however, some inmates also bribe their way into these rooms illegally.
Source: Al Jazeera
If not for the heavy locking doors, Her Majesty’s Prison (or HMP) Parc, in Wales, could pass for a public school. It offers numerous classes, a gymnasium with hot showers, pool tables, and ping-pong tables.
- Channel 4
Source: HMP Parc
Sollentuna Prison, located in Sweden, lets prisoners cook their own meals and spend large chunks of their day watching TV or using the weight room for exercise. Like Norwegian and Finnish prisons, the facility upholds Nordic values of rehabilitation.
Switzerland’s Champ-Dollon Prison had grown overcrowded in recent years, so the country put $40 million into an upgraded new wing. The upgrades overhauled prison cells to create more comfortable and spacious rooms.
Likewise in Norway’s Bastoy Prison, inmates spend their sentence on a private island complete with farming, fishing, skiing, tennis, and horseback riding.