The Scandinavian exceptionalism literature has highlighted the relatively progressive and rehabilitative nature of imprisonment in Norway, with the Norwegian Correctional Services taking the view that those convicted of crimes have paid their debt to society at the end of their sentence. However, other parts of the Norwegian state take a more stringent view, imposing and enforcing significant and persistent debts on offenders. This article, based on official documents and interviews with Norwegian desisters and probation caseworkers, analyses how living with debt poses a major challenge for reintegration and desistance. Referred to informally as ‘punishment debt’, this pervasive but less visible aspect of Norwegian penality demonstrates the need to broaden the penal exceptionalism research agenda beyond the confines of the prison.
An Unpaid Debt to Society: How ‘Punishment Debt’ Affects Reintegration and Desistance from Crime in Norway