The Parliamentary Ombudsman’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM) visited Drammen Prison on 24–25 May this year.
During the visit, an inspection was carried out of all sections, the gym, library, the prison employment service, kitchen, school and outdoor areas. Interviews were conducted with the inmates, staff, health department and the prison administration.
Unacceptable for female inmates
Women and men serve together in Drammen Prison.
‘Female inmates may be subjected to pressure and threats that lead to force and abuse being overlooked by the staff. This is in breach of international and Norwegian guidelines,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.
During the visit, findings were made that support discontinuing the practice of female and male inmates serving together. In interviews with both inmates and staff, it emerged that the female inmates received a lot of undesirable attention from the male inmates.
Because of the staffing situation, female inmates were not offered the same activities as males either. The lack of a toilet in the cells and limited access to a shower also affect women to a greater degree.
‘More female inmates than male inmates have been the victim of sexual abuse, which often leads to trauma and feelings of shame and guilt. In a report from 2010, it emerged that 57 per cent of female inmates had been the victim of sexual abuse as an adult. On this basis, it is particularly important that the prison is a place where women feel fully protected from harassment and abuse,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.
‘I note that the prison still does not have satisfactory sanitary conditions or enough staff to escort inmates to the toilet at night. The solution, a bucket that inmates must carry along the corridor to empty in the toilets the next morning, is not acceptable. When following up a previous visit to the prison in 2013, the Ombudsman pointed out the same shortcoming. That time, the Correctional Service Southern Region wrote that they planned to install toilets in the cells in the course of 2015.’
During the visit, it emerged that several of the inmates used the sink as a toilet at night, rather than the bucket. They experienced walking along the corridor in the morning to empty the bucket as undignified. The sink is also used for brushing teeth and for washing the cutlery handed out to the individual inmates.
‘Until toilets have been installed in all cells, the inmates should be able to use the toilets when necessary, at all hours of the day,’ says Aage Thor Falkanger.
Time spent outside the cells
In Drammen Prison, a very high percentage of inmates spend less than eight hours a day outside their cells. Combined with limited opportunities for activities both on weekdays and at weekends, this is problematic. Many of the inmates are on remand and therefore also in a particularly vulnerable phase.
‘The outdoor areas are not deemed to be satisfactory. According to the UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, outdoor areas shall be such that they provide inmates with the possibility of physical activity,’ the Parliamentary Ombudsman points out.
Despite there being a significant percentage of foreign inmates in the prison, findings from the visit show that the prison only uses an interpreter in its work with these inmates in exceptional circumstances. In many cases, foreign inmates are also in a weaker position because they have less knowledge of Norwegian legislation, rights and the right to complain/appeal.