Anders Behring Breivik will likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Inside he’ll be treated with respect and humanity—two things he denied each of his victims.
That’s because Norway’s prison system stresses two ideas: that traditional, repressive prisons do not work, and that treating inmates humanely boosts their chances of re-integrating into society. That philosophy impacts everything from cells (they frequently resemble well-appointed college dorm rooms) to the relationship between inmates and guards (officers rarely carry guns because that creates unnecessary social distance). Countries track recidivism rates differently, but even an imperfect comparison suggests that Norway’s strategy of building inmates up, rather than tearing them down, works. In the U.S. and the U.K., between 50% and 60% of freed inmates wind up back in prison. The comparable figure in Norway is just 20%.
Last April TIME toured three Norwegian prisons: Halden, the country’s newest maximum security prison; Bastoy, an island prison that includes a tanning facility and a ski jump; and Sandaker, an “open prison” in an apartment block in downtown Oslo which allows prisoners to come and go during the day. Here’s what we saw.
MORE: Sentenced to Serving the Good Life in Norway