What Prison Food In Norway Is Like

Norwegians prisons are one of the most discussed parts of Norway, and many foreigners are taken aback by the humane treatment of criminals in Norway.

One of the questions many people have is what the prison food in Norway is like. Some are under the impression that it’s gourmet style dinners, so let’s take a look at the facts of what typical prison food in Norway is like!

The short summary is that prison food in Norway consists of bread with spread or cereal for breakfast and lunch, a regular dinner either served or made by the inmates themselves, and bread again for supper.

The prison food in Norway is nothing special, but it’s also more than enough food to make the inmates full. It’s also pretty healthy. There is actually a big different from prison to prison (based on the level of security), so we’re going to take a closer look at prison food at different Norwegian prisons below.

Agder Prison. Photo by Kriminalomsorgen - The Norwegian Correctional Service.
Agder Prison. Photo by Kriminalomsorgen – The Norwegian Correctional Service.

Most prisons require the inmates to make their own food

Low security grade prisons often let the inmates live a type of normal life with a job, an education and hobbies. This also means that they must make their own food, so that the inmates must make their own dinners.

These prisons often have an on-site store where the inmates can spend their own money to buy ingredients and food, and must do this to make their breakfast, lunch and dinners.

The prison will offer regular food to prisoners, but if they want to choose what to make, they need to buy their own ingredients.

Prison store at Agder Prison
The prison store at Agder Prison. Photo by Kriminalomsorgen – The Norwegian Correctional Service.

Each prisoner is free to make their own food, but it’s common for inmates to form dinner groups where they rotate on who makes dinner for the group.

This leaves each inmate to make dinner about once weekly, but get served food the rest of the days. Some groups even have inmates that acts at chefs where the other inmates buy the ingredients and the “chef” makes food for the group.

These chefs are typically just regular inmates who enjoy cooking, and find it a nice and relaxing experience to make food for the group. The chefs also tend to be well-liked among the other inmates, so they will typically get some social benefits for making food.

An inmate who makes food in a Norwegian prison.
An inmate who makes food in a Norwegian prison. Photo by Kriminalomsorgen – The Norwegian Correctional Service.

High level security prisons serve food to the inmates

Inmates in a high level security prison do not have the freedom to make their own food as they wish, and are often served food instead.

The food served at high level security prisons in Norway tend to be pretty average, somewhat healthy and can compare to the dinners and food served at retirement homes or other governmental institutions.

It’s by no means any type of gourmet food, and tends to rather be traditional Norwegian cuisine such as meat balls and potatoes, lapskaus (beef stew), and different type of pork meat dishes.

Hallways in Halden prison
Photo by Justis- og politidepartementet / CC BY 2.0.

Is it true that some Norwegian prisons have restaurants?

Yes, it’s true that some prisons in Norway have a restaurant, but it’s not in the way that people often imagine.

The entire reason why there are prisons with a restaurant in Norway is because all inmates in Norway are required to either get education or specialize in a job while being in prison, and one of the options can be to get educated as a chef.

An inmate working as a chef in Halden prison
An inmate working as a chef in Halden prison. Photo by Kriminalomsorgen – The Norwegian Correctional Service.

Some prisons allow inmates to get work experience of running a cafeteria or a type of restaurant, which is actually a very valuable work experience. And to kill two birds with one stone, the inmates are free to choose to buy food from the restaurant on-site.

However, it’s not like prisoners in Norway have access to outside chefs that make food on their whims. It’s more like a restaurant run by inmates that operates typically once a week, giving them the opportunity to use their own money on buying dinner.

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