“We truly believe, and evidently the statistics support us in this, that a hard and less-stimulating environment creates more re-offenders,” Mads Mandrup, an architect and partner at C.F. Møller Architects.
About 70 miles southeast of Copenhagen, in the town of Gundslev, Storstrøm Prison looks more like a university campus than a typical prison. Both the architecture and social policy at the prison aim to reduce recidivism by emphasizing rehabilitation, an approach that Scandinavian countries employ. Sweden, for example, has a recidivism rate of about 40%, which is about half that of the U.K., which has a traditional incarceration system. Scandinavia’s approach hinges on creating an environment that’s as close to normal day-to-day life as possible, which benefits both the 250 incarcerated individuals at Storstrøm and the prison guards.
The grounds are modeled after a regular Danish village, complete with open space and buildings with distinctively Scandinavian architecture–think angled facades, lots of glass, and natural materials. You won’t see anyone “behind bars,” so to speak, as the individual cells look more like dorm rooms with windows, a bed, a private bathroom, desk, and reading lamp. There’s no central cafeteria; instead groups of four to seven cells share communal kitchens where they prepare their own meals. They also share a living area, which is furnished and painted so it doesn’t have an institutional feel.