Planning Group Travel: HOPE Goes to Norway (Steps 1-3)

Next May, I’ll be leading a group of around 10 people on a week-long trip to Norway – all as part of my job!

I currently work as the Mentoring Director for an undergraduate based program (HOPE) which trains college students to mentor juveniles who are incarcerated in our state of Indiana. I split my days between my cubicle on the Indiana University campus, my office in one of the juvenile correctional facilities (PJCF), and the other three state-level facilities across Indiana.

Me after completing a three week course to become and Offender Workforce Development Specialist through work.

Our mentors are all undergraduate college volunteers, many whom are studying criminal justice, psychology, education, social work, pre-law and other related disciplines, so criminal justice – particularly juvenile justice – is a topic of great interest to many of our program participants.

A photo of one of our mentors, working with her mentee in one of the juvenile correctional facilities for males.

Another interest many of our mentors share is travel. Among our mentors, international travel is fairly common and frequently discussed. With this in mind, I jokingly told my boss “We should take a trip,” and T.O.. responded with “You’re, right! Plan it,” so here we are with a trip to Norway on our agenda.

Our handout for the HOPE Norway trip. It’s getting real!!

How did we settle on this location?

We want to bring our mentors and colleagues along to visit two of Norway’s world-famous prisons and observe their progressive criminal justice system. Norway has some of the lowest crime rates in the world and is considered one of the safest countries to live, despite having criminal justice policies which many might describe as lenient. Whereas the USA has a strong tendency to focus on punishment of those who have committed criminal offenses, Norway has a much more rehabilitative approach, with high-profile criminals often living in their own apartments on prison facilities and receiving sentences a fraction of what they might receive for comparable sentences in the states. See this interview with a Norwegian inmate to get an idea of what I mean.

On the grounds of the Madison Juvenile Correctional Facility in Indiana.

Although I clearly laid out six steps to build an itinerary, we jumbled the order on this trip hitting step two, step three, then step one.

The planning for this part of the trip happened fairly quickly and demonstrate how fluid the order of my six steps for building an itinerary can be.

T.O. and I completed step 3 first, settling on our location of Norway pretty immediately. Our research in the field had made this a natural location for the objectives of our trip – to expose our mentors to an alternative approach to criminal justice for international comparison – which we had basically identified at the same time (despite “consider travel objectives” being step 2 on my checklist). Our familiarity with the two famous prisons in Norway, Bastoy and Halden, made it clear that Oslo would be the most logical city for us to spend our week.

My journal for planning our work trip to Norway in May 2018.

After deciding on Norway, we went back to step 1 to decide on our trip duration. We knew we’d like to spend about a week together as a work organization, allowing individuals to extend their travel after our HOPE portion of the trip if desired. Anything more meant possibly undertaking an unrealistic amount of planning as we intend to have learning experiences planned for each day of our trip together, and anything less didn’t seem worth it for the price of travel from Indiana to Norway.

Because we work with college students, there were only a few natural times for us to take this trip – during the summer or winter breaks. All other breaks were too short for the week-long trip and would result in students having to miss scheduled classes. With this in mind, we took a quick poll of the mentors who had expressed interested in participating in the trip and identified summer to be a better time for travel. A few more polls later, and we settled on early May, shortly after the end of the school year, as the best time for everyone who was interested. To date, we have identified the week of May 13-19 as the week we will be travelling Norway with the HOPE organization and will settle on exact dates when we book our flights.

Some of my amazing mentors, a few of whom will be going to Norway with us in May 2018!

As you can see, the six steps do not always happen in the order I listed – depending on your trip goals it may make more sense to tackle them in a different order. However, they must all be completed eventually and planning this HOPE trip to Norway was a great example for me of how variable the planning process can be.

This field of work – juvenile justice – is a huge area for human rights work but it is not an isolated topic. Many other major human rights issues impact what happens globally in juvenile justice, such as education, LGBT rights, refugee rights, disability rights, and employment. The Suitcase Six Twitter and Facebook page will be where I share most of the posts related to Human Rights, Fair Trade, and topics related to balancing work and travel – follow us there to get the news on human rights and employability issues in the world where we live, where we’ve been, and where we plan to visit next. To follow my planning process on our journey to Norway, subscribe to the Suitcase Six mailing list and you’ll receive updates when I share new posts.

Have you heard anything about the Norwegian criminal justice system? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.


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