It was a stunning political debate that would be hard to imagine in Britain. But it was not so shocking in Norway, where a general election is taking place on Monday.
The topic was crime policy and – so far so normal – it featured a panel of politicians discussing the best ways to reduce crime. But the live TV show was set inside a high security prison, the audience consisted exclusively of guards and prisoners, with one inmate, Bjørnar Dahl, taking part in the panel alongside the justice minister and the deputy leader of the main opposition party.
“It was high time the politicians came here to talk about crime policy,” explains Dahl, 43, a few days after the event. “This is about us, what happens in prisons and how we can return to society in a way that is beneficial to everyone.”
Dahl, who is serving a five-year sentence for complicity in smuggling amphetamines, stole the show. When the representative from the populist Future party, Per Sandberg, argued that there was an increase in criminality in Norway caused by gangs of Eastern Europeans organising beggars in the streets of Oslo, Dahl dismissed him as talking “crap” and asked him whether he had any knowledge of the situations the beggars were coming from.
When Sandberg tried to argue that the solution to reduce drug abuse in prisons was to increase the level of control on inmates, Dahl shot back: “We’re controlled from the moment we wake up to the moment we go to sleep. I get strip-searched every time I have a visit and all my phone calls are monitored. You can’t have more control than we have now.” (…)