Gavin Newsom — We are transforming San Quentin Prison, adopting the Norway Project…

Luis went to prison on a life sentence 16 years ago, at age 17. Food came on a tray and leftovers were removed on the same brown plastic rectangle.

So he had never cooked or done dishes before moving to the “Little Scandinavia” unit in the Pennsylvania State Correctional Institution at Chester last year — an experiment modeled after Northern European systems of incarceration, where the goal is less about punishment and more about turning out people who can be good neighbors.

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Here, Luis (Pennsylvania prison rules prevent me from using his last name) has use of four stainless steel stoves, two blond-wood islands, pots including a bright blue Dutch oven and a fridge that holds groceries from a nearby supermarket. There are even some not-too-sharp knives.

“It dawned on me that all these years I had become conditioned and dependent,” he told me, standing in that spotless kitchen shared by 54 men. Being able to clean up after himself was an autonomy he didn’t even know he wanted, or needed.


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