US

Prisons chief aims to make 'hard time' a rehearsal for home

FILE - This June 15, 2010 file photo shows the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise, Idaho. A handful of U.S. prison leaders like Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin Kempf are trying to incorporate European principals, where correctional officers strive to make the prison experience as close to normal life as possible, into prisons back home. They hope the changes will lead to lower recidivism rates, happier staffers and inmates who are better prepared to be good neighbors once they are released. (AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield, File)

FILE - This June 15, 2010 file photo shows the Idaho Correctional Center south of Boise, Idaho. A handful of U.S. prison leaders like Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin Kempf are trying to incorporate European principals, where correctional officers strive to make the prison experience as close to normal life as possible, into prisons back home. They hope the changes will lead to lower recidivism rates, happier staffers and inmates who are better prepared to be good neighbors once they are released. (AP Photo/Charlie Litchfield, File)  (The Associated Press)

American prisons offer inmates few choices and constant reminders that they are behind bars. That's not the case for many prisons in Norway, Germany and other European countries, where correctional officers strive to make the prison experience as close to normal life as possible.

Now a handful of U.S. prison leaders like Idaho Department of Correction Director Kevin Kempf are trying to incorporate some of those European principals into prisons back home. They hope the changes will lead to lower recidivism rates, happier staffers and inmates who are better prepared to be good neighbors once they are released.

The California-based Prison Law Office sent Kempf and other Idaho officials to Norway earlier this year to see the possibilities firsthand.

Kempf says he's convinced the approach will increase public safety and the safety of his correctional officers.