STAVANGER, Norway ( Associated Press) — Convicted mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik spends his days in a sprawling three-room cell, playing video games, exercising, watching TV and taking university-level courses in math and business.
Demand for 21-year sentence half way and early releaseBreivik, 42, is being treated in a way that may shock people outside Norway, where he killed eight people in the Oslo bombings in 2011, and then 69 at a summer camp. They were chased and killed, mostly teenagers.
But here – no matter how bad the crime is – criminals benefit from a criminal justice system designed to provide prisoners with some comfort and opportunities for life outside.
Nevertheless, Breivik’s extreme case is testing the limits of Norway’s commitment to tolerance and resettlement.
“We have never had anyone in Norway who has been responsible for this level of violence before. And there is a debate here as to whether part of the justice system should be replaced for someone like him,” said Erik Kursetgajerde Said, who survived the slaughter on the island of Utoya when he was 18. However, he recommends a slow approach that doesn’t succumb to Breivik’s desire to overturn the system.
During a three-day parole hearing this week broadcast to journalists, Breivik shunned violence but also gave a Nazi salute and advocated white supremacy, echoing views in a manifesto he released at the time of his killing spree . The explosion was familiar to Norwegians, who saw him distributing gambling diatribes during a partially televised criminal trial.
“Obviously it is trying extremely hard for the survivors, the bereaved and Norwegian society,” said Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, professor of law at the University of Oslo. In a bid to stop this kind of grandeur.
In 2016, Breivik successfully sued the Norwegian government for human rights abuses, complaining about his isolation from other prisoners, repeated searches of the bandage and the fact that he was frequently imprisoned during the early part of his imprisonment. He was handcuffed. He also complained about the quality of the prison food, eating with plastic utensils and not being able to communicate with sympathizers.
While Breivik’s human rights case was eventually overturned by a higher court, the episode showed how far the Norwegian criminal justice system can lean in favor of prisoners’ rights and living conditions.
“By Norwegian standards his condition is excellent,” said his prison psychiatrist, Randy Rosenquist. She testified at the parole hearing that Breivik was still a public threat.
Even after Breivik cracked down at this week’s parole hearing, Norwegian authorities showed no sign of backing down from treating him like any other inmate at Skene Prison.
“In Nordic prison sentences, the main punishment is deprivation of liberty. All Nordic countries have systems based on a liberal and humane criminal policy that begins with a mutual understanding that punishment should not be harsher than necessary,” said the University of Oslo Public and Professor Johann Bouch of the Department of International Law, who also worked in Sweden and Finland. “The other aspect is rehabilitation, and the theory is that it is better in the long run to rehabilitate a prisoner than to build a factory for criminals.” ”
Until about 50 years ago, Norway’s justice system was focused on punishment. But a response to the harsh conditions of prisons occurred in the late 1960s, leading to criminal justice reform that emphasized compassionate treatment and rehabilitation.
Norwegian sentences and prison conditions differ sharply from those of other European countries such as France, where the worst offenders can face life imprisonment, with the possibility of appeal only after 22 years.
Relatively few French defendants receive the longest sentences, but among those facing it is Salah Abdeslam, the only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that attacked Paris in November 2015. Abdeslam complains bitterly about his conditions at Fleury-Merogis Prison, where he spends 24 hours under observation in solitary confinement, with furniture strung on the floor of his small cell and he can only exercise for an hour a day.
Breivik’s comparatively lenient behavior inside the prison does not mean that he will be out soon, or even in 2032, when his sentence ends.
While the maximum prison sentence in Norway is 21 years, in 2002 the law was amended so that, in rare cases, the sentence could be extended indefinitely in increments of five years if someone was still considered a threat to the public. goes.
Breivik’s lawyer, Austin Storvik, said in his closing argument at the parole hearing that Breivik must be released to prove that he has reformed and is no longer a threat to society, and that it is not possible to prove that He is in complete isolation.
But Breivik’s behavior during this week’s parole hearing was enough evidence for some that he should never see freedom again.
Christine Roineland, who leads a group for the families of Breivik’s victims and survivors, said her comfortable prison conditions and ability to spread extremist ideas through publicized parole hearings are reprehensible.
Whatever the outcome of Breivik’s request for early parole, which will be decided by a three-judge panel in the coming weeks, some take an enlightened view of the Norwegian government’s clear commitment to be treated like any other prisoner. Huh.
“People may be afraid that he is using the law as a platform,” said law professor Sandvik. “But you can also say that, you know, he’s being used by the law. He’s a megaphone for the rule of law.”
Associated Press reporter Lori Hinnant in Paris, France contributed to this report.