Reports 2015/47

Prison inmates' living conditions 2014

In Norwegian only


  1. RAPP2015-47_web.pdf (1.2 MB)

This report on living conditions among inmates in Norwegian prisons is based on a survey conducted in the autumn of 2014.

This report on living conditions among inmates in Norwegian prisons is based on a survey conducted in the autumn of 2014. The report describes their lives before prison and to some extent their lives while incarcerated and their plans after they are released. A control group from the general population, with similar demographic characteristics, was made from Statistics Norway’s other surveys.

Most of the inmates are men, and the majority are younger than 40 years. Seven out of ten people surveyed were non-immigrants, but inmates with deportation orders and inmates held on remand were excluded from the sample. These groups have a high percentage of immigrants and the proportion of immigrants in the total prison population may be higher. The inmates had to a greater extent than the reference group been living alone and to a lesser extent been living in relationships with children before they were incarcerated. The proportion that are divorced or separated is higher than in comparable groups. 46 percent were serving their first sentence and 54 percent had served previous prison sentences.

Many inmates had experienced a difficult childhood. 32 percent had little money compared to others or were among the poorest in the neighborhood. A large percentage had negative experiences in childhood. For example, 40 percent were abused while growing up, 38 percent lived with someone who had alcohol or drug problems and 41 percent have had family members in prison. Inmates who have served previous sentences and younger inmates had consistently experienced more of these negative childhood experiences than other inmates.

The living conditions of the inmates before prison is consistently worse than in com¬parable groups of the general population. 68 percent lived in a dwelling they owned or rented, compared to 98 percent among comparable groups. 28 percent lived in cramped quarters, which is a much higher proportion than in the reference group. Education and employment levels are also markedly lower. 66 percent have secondary or lower as their highest education, and only 36 percent were employed when the were incarcerated. In the reference group, the proportions are respectively 24 and 82 percent.1 The share who had economic problems was also higher among inmates.

The proportion with poor health was higher among inmates than in the reference group. It is also more common to have various symptoms of physical and mental disorders. One in five inmates consider their health as poor or very poor, and a majority has a long-term illness or disorder. Older inmates score worse on all health indicator compared to younger inmates.

Inmates had been the subjected to violence and intimidation in the year before incarceration to a much greater extent than comparable groups in the population. A majority of inmates had used drugs in the year before they were inprisoned. This is a higher level of drug use than we find in the reference group, and the difference is particularly evident in the proportion who used hard drugs. There is less of a clear difference in the proportion who drink alcohol, but it is more common among inmates become intoxicated often.

The majority of inmates have friends or family they can talk to and help them with problems, but the proportion without such close contacts is higher than in the reference group. Four out of ten do not have someone they can talk to in prison and a similar proportion have not been visited in the last three months. The inmates also exhibit less confidence that others can be trusted and that most people will treat them decently.

Overall, we find that the vast majority of inmates have problems with their living conditions in one or more areas. We find the largest proportion with multiple problems among inmates under 40 years, inmates on short sentences and inmates who have served previous prison sentences. 18 percent of inmates think there is a quite small or small possibility that they will not commit new crimes after their release.

1 The sentence was corrected 30 October 2015.

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Prison inmates' living conditions 2014

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Reports 2015/47

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Statistisk sentralbyrå


Crime and justice

About Reports

Analyses and annotated statistical results from various surveys are published in the series Reports. Surveys include sample surveys, censuses and register-based surveys.