After visiting three N.C. prisons, the class traveled to Norway, which has spent the last 30 years reforming its prisons, to get another perspective. Students had the opportunity to visit a number of Norwegian prisons where reform has been highly successful.
“In Norway, [many] believe that the only punishment for a crime should be losing your liberty, but there should be no extra punishment,” Cade says.
Norwegian officials taught students about their current work to transform oppressive societal structures that create crime-conducive environments and to prepare those incarcerated for re-entering their communities as healthy, functioning members.
“One woman talked about how this particular contact officer had become so important to her and that she saw her as a role model. She felt that she could talk with her about anything and that it had helped her to change,” Sherry says about one inmate’s experience in Norway’s Bredtveit prison.
Students were exposed to the daily life of those on all sides of the equation — speaking directly with those incarcerated, correctional officers, and prison leadership. They left understanding an important Norwegian belief: People are more than the crimes they commit.
“I stood next to people on death row for murdering babies. I waved to a lady that killed three of her husbands. Offenders are just people like you and me. You are not defined by your lowest moment,” says Tony Batchler ’20, a double major in Psychology and Justice and Policy Studies double who hopes to one day work as a counselor with those who have been incarcerated.