Based on ethnographic fieldwork and interviews, this study of a minimum security, "open" prison in Norway attempts to flesh out empirically criminologist John Pratt's argument that Scandinavian societies employ "exceptional" penal practices. In the course of three months of fieldwork, semi-structured interviews with fifteen inmates were conducted, in addition to participant observation of daily prison life and dozens of conversations with inmates and staff. On Prison Island, the 115-man prison under study, most inmates live in small wooden houses in self-organized collectives, engaging in ecological farming, forestry and educational programs. Great emphasis is placed on inmate rehabilitation for the purposes of successful community re-entry. Building on Gresham Sykes' (1958) original "pains of freedom" and Ben Crewe's (2011) notion of "new" pains in the era of "soft power" in prisons, it is argued that there are salient "pains of freedom" that arise out of apparently relaxed conditions of confinement like those found on Prison Island. The freedom experienced therein can be frustrating and painful as inmates balance between liberty and confinement. Essentially, in the absence of those features commonly associated with traditional prisons, inmates must internalize the prison with all its rules and expectations for self-improvement. In this way, the penal populist vision of open prison confinement as "luxurious" or "cushy" is moderated through empirical engagement.
It is shown that prison officers have developed "techniques of micro-constraint" including prisoner population counts, drug tests, standards of domestic discipline and visitor regulations to maintain order and docile bodies, macro-constraint, the threat of return to higher-security confinement is an overarching control technique that seeks to create discipline and self-regulation in the prisoner body.
The dilemmas and tribulations of life in the open prison are illustrated with a case study of a music band organized by inmates, as well as an analysis of the use of ethnic and national characteristics as a "principle of vision and division" in the society of captives. For the band, the opportunity to play music affords certain privileges not available to other inmates, like the opportunity to leave the prison and play concerts. But new risks and challenges also arise as they strive to balance the dynamic of an outside-world organization with the expectations of inmates and officers. In terms of ethnonational group dynamics, it is shown that Norwegians and "foreigners" occasionally mobilize into stratified clusters, but by and large manage to produce a working arrangement under a regime of "forced multiculturalism".
In summarizing, it is argued that, on the international penal scene, Prison Island is an exceptional institution, but as an exemplar of late-modern "soft power" in imprisonment, it still remains committed to the basic facts of security, control and punitiveness, even as these take on new and unfamiliar guises.