Halden Prison in Norway has become an example of successful rehabilitation and normalcy for its inmates. Through offering an environment that respects the humanity of each prisoner, Jan Stromnes, the deputy warden, has created a facility that empowers individuals to move past their mistakes. In Breaking the Cycle, Stromnes takes his model to prisons across the United States to encourage badly needed reforms.
Breaking the Cycle is a documentary that follows Stromnes on his mission to give inmates the chance to be treated with respect and dignity. It highlights how Halden Prison encourages open communication between staff and prisoners, promoting healthy growth during incarceration. As he visits other US prisons, including Attica Correctional Facility in New York, it quickly becomes evident how much more needs to be done to rehabilitate those behind bars instead of simply punishing them.
At Attica, Stromnes sits down with a group of inmates and asks them what their ideal prison setting would be like; most yearn for an environment more akin to a campus where they can access educational and vocational programs that will guide them towards purposeful goals upon release. The North Dakota State Penitentiary is one such facility that is working hard towards this type of transformation.
Reform within the prison system is crucial but hindered by governmental bureaucracy and fiscal restrictions as well as societal stigmatism. To make genuine progress we need innovative ideas and meaningful change – something that Breaking the Cycle seeks to inspire with its thoughtful insights into how progress can be made from within institutions themselves. By watching this powerful documentary, we can all gain a greater understanding of how rehabilitating offenders is not only possible but essential in building stronger communities for us all.