The new British prime minister has announced that the government will lock criminals up for longer and will provide additional funds to increase the available prison accommodation by 10,000.
As I write this piece there are almost 84,000 locked up in the UK jails and they have more people behind bars than any other European country.
So, with the UK locking up record numbers and now preparing to lock up more for longer, is this the right approach?
I’ve had a look at what takes place in Norway just across the North Sea from Scotland. Both countries have populations of five million but in Scotland 150 people per 1,000 of the population are sent to jail compared to just 63 in Norway.
When it comes to prisoners reoffending after release in Norway it is 20 per cent whilst in Scotland it is 31pc and in England it is 42pc.
Looking at the costs of locking up people in jail in Norway it costs just £98,000 per year to lock up a category A convict whilst in the UK it costs £63,000.
Part of the increased cost in Norway is because it takes up to three years of training to become a prison officer after a very tough selection process with only 175 accepted out of 1,200 applicants last year.
Norwegian prison officers are well paid and are bilingual in Norwegian and English because one-third of prisoners in Norway are non-native.
In the UK prison officers receive 12 weeks of training, the shortest in Europe, before being assigned to jails on a basic salary of £19,000.
In Norway male category A prisoners are housed in modern facilities with a 50/50 split of male and female officers.
In Halden prison outside Oslo each category A prisoner has his own en suite room with a TV, fridge and a window with no bars.
The governor of the facility recognises punishment is important and views the removal of liberty as the punishment part of his job.
He is majorly focused on preparing the prisoners for rehabilitation back into society.
Every day the prisoners leave their cells at 7.30am and start work at 8.15am.
Apart from a one-hour rest break in their cells that coincides with the officer’s break in the afternoon they are not locked up in their cells until 8.15pm.
All of this is part of the work preparing prisoners for a life on the other side of the wall. Many are released as qualified motor mechanics, chefs, carpenters, etc and some have studied and been awarded diplomas and degrees.
Jails are not violent places in Norway and attacks on officers are very rare.
In the UK there are around 30 officers attacked each day in jails. There is little corruption due to the quality of the prison officers who are paid well and highly respected in the community.
In the UK there is one officer on duty for every 3.6 prisoners whilst it is one officer for every 12 prisoners in Norway looking after better-behaved prisoners in facilities that are focused on prisoner rehabilitation back in society.
Two radically different approaches towards dealing with crime.
Gordon is the former president and chief executive of BMMI. He can be reached at email@example.com