Prison education in the Norwegian penitentiary system.

Project titled „Prison education in the Norwegian penitentiary system” was financed with the funds of the Education Programme whose main aim is to reduce economic and social disparities within the European Economic Area and to strengthen bilateral relations between Poland and the Donor States (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway) at all levels of education. Programme activities are to strengthen human potential and to broaden knowledge about Poland.

„Prison education in the Norwegian penitentiary system” project is a typical educational project. Its main objective was to get to know with the specifics of prison education in Norway. Within the project we had a chance to observe how prison educators work with adult inmates in Norway, what methods they use in their educational process and most off all we put emphasis on getting to know with e-learning techniques which are used in Norwegian reality (the reason for that was that e-learning in Polish prison education is practically non-existent).

Members of our association, who took part in the Project are directly engaged in a broadly understood education of prisoners. Our philosophy says that social rehabilitation through education is a very responsible task which may be implemented only by a very well prepared substantively staff. To have such staff we must continuously invest in its development and improvement. Having a chance to take part in the study visit in Norway was a good supplement of the needs that prison educators-members of our association have.

The objective of the project was to make it possible for the prison educators to get to know with new, alternative methods of education, getting to know with the penitentiary system in Norway as well as the prison education system in this country. The will to implement this project came out also from the fact that professional development training offer in our country is relatively poor. There are some internal trainings but according to the participants of such trainings, it is clear that there is a huge demand to be opened for new challenges and the will to broaden our horizons and think outside the box. Thanks to the „Prison education in the Norwegian penitentiary system” project we could achieve the following goals:

1. Improve the quality and innovative character of prison education,

2. Promotion of the cultural and language diversity,

3. Motivating people working in the field of prison education to seek alternatives and forms of educating prisoners,

4. Promoting the concept of lifelong learning.


The hosting institution was a government agency which is responsible for implementing educational activities in penal units in and around Oslo, Norway. Thanks to the study visit, Polish prison educators got to know with the specifics of prison education in Norway and they could also observe their colleagues directly at work with prisoners. During the Study Visit, participants had a chance to visit three penitentiary units thanks to which they could experience what working conditions Norwegian prison educators have and how prison education is implemented there. Moreover, Polish prison educators took active part in classes for prisoners in visited institutions. What is more, educators (from both countries) exchanged good practises and remarks regarding how prison education is implemented in both countries. We managed to create a spark of an idea of networking and both parties expressed desire of international cooperation and planned potential mutual educational activities for the future.


This is what one of the participants of the Study Visit wrote after coming back:

Busola Socially Excluded Education Association is active in the field of prison education. One of the projects that the association was involved in, was the project titled „Prison education in the Norwegian penitentiary system” which was organized within the Education Programme. It was a Study Visit thanks to which Polish prison educators gained very valuable professional experience.

The visit took place between 22-26 November 2021 and four teachers of the Continuing Education Centre no 1 in Iława took part in it. The visit was organized in a few Norwegian penal units, more specifically in prison schools operating in these penal units. The aim of the visit was to gather examples of good practises as well as to get to know with the educational system in selected prison educational units in Norway. The visit was also a great opportunity to broaden knowledge about Norwegian penitentiary system and to compare Polish and Norwegian conditions of working with prisoners. It was also a chance to verify common myths regarding Norwegian prisons.

Four teachers of the Polish prison school took part in the study visit. Marek Kasprzycki – mechanical vocational subjects, Zbigniew Patorski – woodcraft vocational subjects, Wojciech Mroczkowski – IT vocational subjects, Mariusz Młotek – English language teacher.

According to the visit itinerary the first day was least busy and the main point was to meet the host coordinator who described all meanders of the prison education system in Norway. After this interesting lecture, Polish prison educators talked about Polish prison education system. In the evening we managed to find a few hours to walk around Oslo which turned out to be a very good idea taking into consideration our tiredness after travels. After a couple of hours of walking through streets in Oslo, we went back to the hotel to rest.

The next day was a visit in a town called Kløfta, where there is a Ullersmo penitentiary unit. We spent the next two days there. On the first day we visited the school and we took part in math classes which were led in English and Norwegian languages. A very interesting point of the visit was the workshop part of the school. It was particularly interesting for our teachers of vocational subjects. We got to know how work is linked with the practical classes in the field of metal and woodworking industry vocational training. Prisoners produce there little wooden houses, wooden furniture or folded canoes.

On another day spent in Ullersmo we “found out” there is another school that operates there. It is connected with the fact that Ila penitentiary unit in Oslo is being renovated and all prisoners and prison teachers were temporarily moved there to temporary living and school blocks in Ullersmo. In this school and this part of the prison we spent two days in total and we also took part in classes – history and math. We had a chance to talk to the inmates and hear them out. Thanks to that we could compare their point of view with ours. Teaching staff told us about how schools operate and function there, they told us about the maximum number of students in classes, about practical classes, etc. We, on the other hand, told them about the functioning system of Polish prison schools. Talks and conclusions were endless. On the last day of our stay in Ullersmo we visited prisoners’ living quarters, prison shop and other places directly connected with everyday functioning of the prison.

On the last day of our stay we moved to Drammen and its penal unit. The unit is located in one building-complex together with a police station and the court. It is not a big institution – only 54 inmates. During the day we took part in various classes, including music lessons in which we took very active part. Similarly to other visited penal units, we had a chance to talk to teaching staff, prison guards, the management as well as with prisoners. At the end of the visited wee handed over a few souvenirs from Iława and after that we ate lunch together and came back to Oslo.

As participants, we are very enthusiastic about what we saw. We can absolutely emphasise how advantageous are possibilities to meet fellow colleagues and discuss with them important issues connected with adult education. What was also very important, was the fact that the Norwegian partners were very eager to share their experiences with us.

It was very hard not to notice that the state widely supports prison education – they spend well more money on school equipment, on a less numerous class groups, etc. A fundamental difference between the Polish and Norwegian system is that both prison guards and prison teachers working directly with prisoners supervise 5-6 inmates, with whom they spend majority of their working day. It is a key element, since they have a lot of time to get to know their mentees, their problems and needs. We could clearly see individualized forms of work and interaction with inmates which leads to positive relations between a teacher/guard and an inmate. In Norway, each prisoner is motivated and activated to work or learn. Such a system improves social rehabilitation process and in the end helps an inmate to return to society after their sentence.

Summing up, the visit needs to be considered as highly successful because we had a chance to get to know with rules and regulations that are used in Norwegian penal units and their prison schools. If possible, we will try to borrow some Norwegian solutions and “plant them on our soil”. Certainly, we would like to take part in a similar undertaking in the future and hereby we would like to sincerely thank “Busola” Socially Excluded Education Association for such an opportunity.

Mariusz Młotek

Prison school teacher at the Iława prison

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Mariusz Młotek, Zbigniew Patorski, Torbjørn Rodal oraz


Projekt „Edukacja więzienna w norweskim systemie penitencjarnym” korzysta z dofinansowania o wartości 8975 EUR otrzymanego od Islandii, Liechtensteinu i Norwegii w ramach Funduszy EOG. Celem projektu jest umożliwienie obserwacji jakie metody w pracy ze skazanymi są stosowane przez kolegów – edukatorów więziennych z Norwegii.