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What Can California Learn From Norway’s Prisons?

Tommy "Shakur" Ross and Thanh Tran looking toward Bastoy, a Norwegian prison on an island.
Andrew Stelzer KALW / Uncuffed
Uncuffed founding co-hosts Tommy "Shakur" Ross and Thanh Tran take a ferry ride to Bastøy, a Norwegian prison on an island.

In our previous episode, a team of formerly incarcerated Californians visited a prison from another planet. Or at least that's how it seemed. Norway's progressive and unique prison system is wildly different from anything in the United States, and it serves as a model for folks trying to make a change here.

On this episode, we’re heading back to another Norwegian prison. This one is on an island with horses, a sheep, and little cottages. Formerly incarcerated Californians take it all in, and ask what we can learn from Norway's example.

"The whole scene to me was overwhelming, to see people wandering round in civilian clothes, running marathons, riding bicycles, living in cottages. We got an opportunity to view how something is 180 degrees different from what I've experienced when I was incarcerated. I spent 23 years in California state prisons, and I've never seen a model that could equal or match what they showed me today."
Nathan "Nate" McKinney

This piece was brought to you from the team at Uncuffed. Our work in prisons is supported by the California Arts Council, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, and donations from listeners like you. The producers fact-check content to the best of their ability. Because this episode was recorded outside of California prisons, the content did not have to be cleared by an information officer.

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Learn more, sign up for Uncuffed news, and support the program at www.weareuncuffed.org.

Uncuffed From The Producers Of Uncuffed
Stories from inside California prisons
Thanh Tran is a media-maker and journalist, raised in South Sacramento. Thanh left San Quentin in 2022, is a Senior Policy and Communications Fellow with the Ella Baker Center, and an Advisory Board member for Uncuffed.
Nathan "Nate" McKinney is a founding co-host of Uncuffed. He paroled from San Quentin in 2022, after serving more than 20 years.
Thomas "Shakur" Ross is a producer of KALW's Uncuffed, presenting stories that show the humanity of incarcerated people.
Adamu Chan is a filmmaker, writer, and community organizer from the Bay Area who was part of the Forward This film project while incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison.