Prisoner surfs out of Norway jail

Thu Aug 6, 2015 1:03pm EDT
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OSLO (Reuters) - A convicted sex offender has escaped from a Norwegian island prison on a surf board, using a plastic shovel to paddle to the mainland, officials said on Wednesday.

The Bastoy low-security prison, famous for organic farming and allowing inmates to watch movies, go cycling and use local beaches, has no fences and is often held up as the ultimate symbol of Norway's emphasis on humane incarceration policies.

The inmate, a man in his mid 20s, was not considered a danger to the general public. He went missing during the night, and a surf board and shovel belonging to the prison were found on the shore of the mainland about three kilometers away.

"It sounds spectacular when it happens this way. But if it hadn't been a surf board, it could have been something else. It's not so hard to find a floating device of some sort on the island," prison chief Tom Eberhardt told Reuters.

With serial killers, rapists and drug traffickers typically among the criminals serving on the island, doing farm work, cooking and other practical tasks, the emphasis of the prison is to prepare them for an eventual return to normal life.

Many of the 115 inmates began serving their sentence in a high-security prison and then applied for transfer to Bastoy. A screening procedure is used to pick those considered best suited for the experience.

The small, picturesque island is connected via a dozen daily ferry departures, mainly for employees and visitors. Escapes, are rare, and when an escapee is caught it's unlikely he will be allowed to return to Bastoy.

"There's no return ticket if you run away," Eberhardt said.

(Reporting by Terje Solsvik, editing by Larry King)