The Evolution of Custody: The Norway Model of Corrections (Part 2 in a Series) 

By: Bob Hampe and Brian Koehn

We’ve written in the past on the ways conversations about incarceration in the United States are changing. Amid drug policy reforms come calls for a rehabilitative, rather than punitive, approach for those already in the system. Many look to advances in technology to help enable these new approaches. But at the core of these changes are challenges to the current system: What’s broken, and what’s worth fixing? 

Norway has earned its reputation as an innovator in the world of corrections. The country does not build massive structures to house thousands of incarcerated individuals, instead focusing on constructing smaller facilities that serve the needs of fewer than 300 people. Its novel approach to rehabilitation means better reentry into society, less recidivism and less disruption to communities overall. 

According to my colleague Brian Koehn, the founder of nonprofit Social Profit Corrections and a former warden who has written extensively on the Norway model of corrections, officials in Norwegian prisons credit three principles to changing their system: dynamic security (empowering officers to engage in professional relationships with the aim of helping the population), normality (making the prison experience as much like normal society as possible) and import (bringing external resources, like healthcare, into facilities). 

Taken together, these three prongs to the Norway model can have a positive impact if implemented in the US prison system. Here’s how, and the ways that technology can help. 

Changes in the US Prison System: Start with Dynamic Security

When I asked Brian to identify the element of the Norway model that might make the biggest impact in the US prison system, he cited “dynamic security” as the first step—helping to transform oversight- and punishment-focused officer-to-resident relationships into helpful, supportive ones. 

What might that look like? Well, it starts with significantly increasing both the training and support offered to corrections officers as they conduct their work. Due to their daily interactions with incarcerated people, these officers often are the most important players in a dynamic security model. At Social Profit Corrections, Koehn reports, they train officers (or “resident supervisors,” as they’re called in the nonprofit) to be coaches, helping connect residents with services and encouraging them to seek opportunities to change their behavior. 

This approach, inspired by the Norway model, intends to disrupt the embedded culture of officer-to-resident dynamics. According to the Bureau of Justice statistics, the rate of recidivism has remained largely flat over the past few decades, which is an improvement after many years of a climbing rate. But corrections professionals would like to see the rate decline, rather than hold steady. Removing harmful practices and rewarding positive behavior, as the Norway model prioritizes, will help reduce these high rates of recidivism. 

Many Millennial and Gen-Z employees seek meaning and purpose in their jobs. After the disruption of COVID-19, Koehn says, an increasing number of younger corrections employees questioned staying in a relatively unsafe work environment, especially when they felt they weren’t able to make a difference or derive meaning from their jobs. Introducing dynamic security gives officers a sense of direction, and by increasing feelings of job fulfillment will help administrators meet their recruitment and retention needs, too.   

How Technology Can Help 

Security is always a top concern to officers and incarcerated individuals alike. Technology, like RTLS, can significantly improve security by getting help where it’s needed, quickly, and providing comprehensive coverage to every corner of a facility. 

Staff will also be able to conduct headcounts and identify areas that need additional coverage at the touch of a button. This frees up valuable time to create positive relationships with incarcerated individuals and disrupt the cycle of recidivism.  

Stay tuned for part three in our series on the evolution of custody. 

About Brian Koehn: 

Brian Koehn is the Founder and CEO of Social Profit Corrections (SPC), a nonprofit organization established in 2021. SPC aims to reinvent the incarceration culture by operating facilities without a profit motive and promoting a humane yet safe culture within corrections. With 28 years of experience in corrections operations, Brian has served as a warden at five separate facilities for 14 years. He has managed contracts in partnership with various agencies, including the Federal Bureau of Prisons, multiple states, the United States Marshals Service, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and local jails. Additionally, Brian has been the Director of Security for over 65 secure facilities. As a leader in the field, Brian is committed to creating a more just and humane approach to corrections and incarceration.

Brian is a dedicated and accomplished individual, both professionally and personally. In addition to his extensive experience in corrections, Brian served in the United States Marine Corps and was a reserve Commissioned Officer in the US Army. He holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Cloud State University.