The island lies in Oslofjord, Norway. 115 men are imprisoned there: bank robbers, drug dealers, sex criminals, Hell's Angels, frauds, gang leaders and murderers. Mostly serving long terms. On the island there are no cells, no cameras, no fences. The guards don’t carry weapons while the prisoners work with chainsaws and kitchen knives. It’s only a two-hour swim to the mainland and yet no one goes for it.
The men who live on Bastøy are all serving the last part of their sentences. Often they have forgotten what it means to care for themselves, or each other. They have stopped making plans for the future. On the island the men live in a halfway house, between prison and society.
"Bastøy is an arena for the development of responsibility" the website of the prison promotes. On Bastøy, they don't believe that criminals become better people if you punish them long and hard. What can someone do if they find themselves back on the streets, coming straight from the cell? If you give people responsibility and mutual respect in steps there might be a bigger chance that they will pick up their life again.
The approach seems to work: in Western Europe, an average of 60–70% former prisoners relapse, and return to a life of crime. On Bastøy, the rate is only 30%.
This film originally aired as part of Doc-Debut, a series on Link TV highlighting unique and groundbreaking international documentary films. Each week features the US television premiere of a new foreign doc, offering American audiences unprecedented perspectives on world events and culture, as seen through the eyes of individuals across the globe. The series also provides a unique outlet for films by independent directors and producers to reach a much wider international audience.