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Built garden in the exercise yard in response to the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report

‘We found money we didn’t really have and it was worth every penny,' says Prison Governor Nils Leyell Finstad about Bredtveit Prison’s main exercise yard. Following the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s recommendation to improve the conditions in the exercise yard, the inmates have taken part in planning and creating a garden that blooms from spring until late autumn – and they have received certificates of competence from the landscape gardening firm.

Following the Parliamentary Ombudsman’s report after its visit to Bredtveit Prison in March 2016, the prison governor was at a loss concerning the description of the prison’s outdoor areas. Bredtveit is not surrounded by thick walls, and the inmates have a view of large recreational areas, the sky, lots of space and the nearby neighbourhood through normal wire fences.

Read the report here: 2016 Bredtveit prison – Visit report.

‘The report made me see that, although the area around the prison is pleasant, the main exercise yard was dreary,’ says the prison governor. The inmates spend two hours here each day during the summer and one hour in winter.

Built by the inmates

Bredtveit already had a well-established cooperation with the Norwegian Labour and Welfare Administration (NAV) and the landscape gardening firm TNT Landskap. There were plans to use the pile of earth that lay next to the large, bumpy asphalted yard for a garden, but it was not intended to be part of the main exercise yard. However, Bredtveit managed to find the necessary resources in addition to funding from NAV.

‘The garden was planned, designed and built by the inmates under the guidance of TNT Landskap and NAV Oslo’s careers advice centre. Everyone who participated has received a certificate of competence for the work they carried out and as documentation of the knowledge they gained. We often hold landscape gardening courses. The inmates also take part in maintaining the gardens that have been created and in establishing new gardens,’ explains Finstad.

The courses are, in principle, offered to all inmates, but there are a limited number of places.

The garden was designed to bloom from early spring to late autumn. Inmates can lie on sunbeds, and harvest berries and leaves for tea. It is also possible to do some weeding, sit by yourself, or just take in the scent of all the different plants.
The garden was designed to bloom from early spring to late autumn. Inmates can lie on sunbeds, and harvest berries and leaves for tea. It is also possible to do some weeding, sit by yourself, or just take in the scent of all the different plants.

The new garden is designed in the shape of a ladybird. The garden’s symbolism is shells and plants that open and close. Plants with black spots, like those of a ladybird, symbolise the foolish things one has done in life. The red of the ladybird symbolises love. Five inmates in ‘team ladybird’ established the garden that was completed in winter 2017.

‘Sports and long walks aren’t for everyone,’ says Nils Leyell Finstad. There are also plans to resurface the big sports yard and to put in place new furniture and decoration. The gate between the two areas of the yard is open when the inmates are outdoors so as to provide as much freedom of choice as possible. It takes the prison officers a bit longer to inspect the garden before the inmates are allowed outside, but there have not been any more incidents here than normal. Security has been maintained by using extra barbed wire reinforcements on the roofs of adjacent houses and improving video surveillance.
‘Sports and long walks aren’t for everyone,’ says Nils Leyell Finstad. There are also plans to resurface the big sports yard and to put in place new furniture and decoration. The gate between the two areas of the yard is open when the inmates are outdoors so as to provide as much freedom of choice as possible. It takes the prison officers a bit longer to inspect the garden before the inmates are allowed outside, but there have not been any more incidents here than normal. Security has been maintained by using extra barbed wire reinforcements on the roofs of adjacent houses and improving video surveillance.

Praises the collaboration

The prison governor particularly emphasises the cooperation between NAV, the landscape gardening firm, Statsbygg, the local school and the prison. NAV also offers a number of other courses that lead to formal qualifications. In addition to gardening, the inmates are also offered courses in dog handling, flower arranging, rehabilitation, barista training, and in operating forklift trucks and personnel lifts.

In addition to the work and education offered, it is also important that for example the gardening work leads to a certificate that the inmates can use to get a job in a garden centre, florist shop or similar when they are released from prison, says Finstad.

Sceptical of the plans

Nils Leyell Finstad says there was scepticism among several of the occupational groups in the prison.

‘To start off with, we put aside the plans for incorporating the “ladybird” into the existing yard due to major security concerns in relation to the staff, inmates and what may be hidden in the garden. However, we carried out a security assessment and made changes. The pieces of furniture are attached to each other and we have invested in new security equipment and barbed wire reinforcement. The effects of the garden on the inmate’s well-being is so important that it must be weighed against an acceptable residual risk. Everyone in the prison now sees the benefit of extending the exercise yard.’

You can see several pictures of the new garden and Bredtveit’s other gardens here. Scroll through the pictures by clicking on them.

The seating area is situated in a paved area surrounded by plants that provide screening.
Alumroot in the Ladybird garden
This garden was established some years ago and is designed in the shape of a heart. The garden was also created by the inmates.
.Bredtveit’s first garden was established with children in mind, visiting their parents in the prison..
Rich blooms in August at Bredtveit
Ivy climbs up the fence providing screening.