Breaking the Cycle
For preview only. Get it at  #ad.

Breaking the Cycle

2017, Society  -   13 Comments
Ratings: 8.75/10 from 73 users.

Halden Prison in Norway isn't your typical correctional institution. The focus here is on rehabilitation and normalcy. It's an approach that wields desirable results; the inmates thrive in harmony when they exist in an environment that doesn't compromise their humanity. Jan Stromnes, the deputy warden of the facility, believes that other prisons can learn and gain from their example. Breaking the Cycle follows him as he travels to prisons across the United States to urge for badly needed reforms.

Determined to view each inmate as a human being who committed a crime instead of a disposable criminal unworthy of compassion, Stromnes and his staff are shown interacting with the prisoners in auto repair shops and recreation rooms. Their relationships are built upon open communication, mutual understanding and respect. This collaborative exchange promotes a well behaved population, minimal inmate infractions and healthy growth during their periods of incarceration.

This is just one of the ideas that seems so revolutionary as Stromnes enters the gates of the infamous Attica Correctional Facility in Wyoming County, New York. Behind these walls and out in the yard, an imposing climate of fear dominates each inmate's every move. Security and self-preservation are the key focus at the expense of all else. This encapsulates the attitude towards incarceration across much of the country.

Stromnes sits with a select group of inmates in Attica and asks them to workshop their ideal prison setting. Most of them yearn for an environment that feels more akin to a campus; where educational and vocational programs can lead them to a sense of purpose and more appealing possibilities upon release.

Some American prisons - such as the North Dakota State Penitentiary - are taking the initiative and attempting to build a more fruitful rehabilitation experience. Officials there pose the same question raised by the film: are we improving the potential of those we're eventually going to allow re-entry into society?

The topic of prison reform is a crucial one, but it's plagued by baffling bureaucracy, budgetary restrictions and societal stigmatisms. Breaking the Cycle embraces the exploration of fresh ideas and meaningful change.

Directed by: Tomas Lindh, John Stark

More great documentaries

Notify of

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Katherine Smith
2 years ago

Cunning yet obvious. Hope the whole world adopts such policies.

4 years ago

I toured a prison that had only been closed a few years at the time. I don't know who designed it but it had huge hallways and tiny cells that I could reach across and nearly scrape my head. Seems like they were wanting everyone to be at each other's throats.

I am beginning to understand why vodka was so popular in Soviet Union, with so many people housed in their huge tenement buildings. Dull the senses...

If only there was a way to put the prosecutors and judges who conspire to put innocent people in prison. Along with appellate judges who protect their lower court tribe. They no longer care about truth, the law, or justice; just winning and how much the prisons kick back to them for each convict sent.

4 years ago

Moral of the story if you want to rob banks and kill people move to Norway and do it

Your a C*nt
4 years ago

People want everything. They don't want this kind of rehabilitation in Norway, as its too 'luxurious'.. yet they encourage the crap conditions in American and British prisons that treat them like animals and then expect them to come out and behave like humans?? Hypocrites.

You need to take one of two sides and fight for that, one, for the death penalty and pure punishment for the crime I'd its heinous. Or for the proper rehabilitation of the criminals in a situation like the Norwegian prisons. What we see now, is a result of mixed views on the subject, humans are so retarded

Jeni Gunn
4 years ago

Great documentary. My only issue is the subtitles are WILDLY inaccurate, to the point of presenting an opposite context of what the speaker actually said. Please fix this. This film loses so much credibility there.

Ashley Jones
4 years ago

When was this documentary first published? I see 2017, but what day and month?

Your Neighbor
4 years ago


Vince Parkes
4 years ago

Brillant documentary. It provides a fresh look at ways to increase the chances of a prisoner successfully re-entering society.

Richard Neva
4 years ago

Prisons all over are pretty much the same. I was a correctional officer for 24 years in Michigan. Good pay and benefits but you always have to watch your back and your partners back. I cannot really watch all this because it brings back some bad memories.

Ian Bell
4 years ago

The female correction woman at the end is an amazing woman!!! wow, such a breath of fresh air.