Kindness vs. punishment and criminal recidivism

It is still a penal colony, but Bastøy prison in Norway, treats offenders as those who can re-enter society and contribute to it. As a result, only 16% re-offend within 2 years of release, in contrast with the United State's punishment focus with a 43% recidivism rate within 3 years. Instead of cells, the prisoners live in wooden cottages, on a working farm, where everyone has to work. They have a beach to enjoy as well as a sauna. It's like a campground, except it's one that you stay at for several years, not just a summer. So why coddle murderers, rapists, drug dealers? As noted in this long CNN article

But if the goal of prison is to change people, Bastoy seems to work. "If we have created a holiday camp for criminals here, so what?" asked Arne Kvernvik Nilsen, the prison's governor and a former minister and psychologist. He added, "We should reduce the risk of reoffending, because if we don't, what's the point of punishment, except for leaning toward the primitive side of humanity?"

Because there is another way to keep offenders from doing it again, a true sign of repentance, the turning away from your wickedness. There is still recidivism, but it works 3-4 times better than my country's punishment focus. Curiously, the US has a higher proportion of Christians, but the Norwegians, historically Lutheran, might have retained a great deal of Luther's emphasis on God's grace, and I wish we could do that as well. When I read this story I thought of Paul's letter to the Roman church, where he writes,

from Wikipedia
Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4

I think it's time this country, the United States of America, try out this thing called "grace," in the way we treat those who offend us. 

The abuses within the American system can be learned about in many places. The Equal Justice Initiative is a great place to start. This recent article from the New Orleans Picayune-Times on the profit motive to keep people incarcerated should break your heart.
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