Anders Breivik and the Norway Justice System

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This story is based on a radio interview. Listen to the full interview.

Audio Transcript:

Marco Werman: As we mentioned earlier, the length of Breivik's sentence — twenty-one years — seems lenient by American standards, so do his prison confines. Breivik will have three cells to himself, which seems like a lot of room for someone convicted of killing seventy-seven people. That's been controversial even on Norway where prisons are designed for the rehabilitation of all inmates. Officials have released pictures of the sparse rooms Breivik will live in. Here's how criminology researcher Thomas Ugelvik of the University of Oslo describes them.

Thomas Ugelvik: He has one bedroom "sleeping" cell, he has one office "writing" cell with a desk, chair, and a laptop computer, and he has one recreational or "work-out" cell with a few very basic pieces of work-out equipment.

Werman: Right. Lest anybody think that's he got kind of a three-room suite, he actually has top ask a correction officer's permission to go from one room to the other, is that correct?

Ugelvik: Yes. If I understand it correctly, he's supposed to stay in the different cells at different periods throughout the day.

Werman: Still, that's more space than most people get in prison. Is that regarded as harsh by Norwegian standards?

Ugelvik: Most Norwegians prisoners would, during the day, be let out their cell and go to their place of work, they have various work assignments, or even to the school department in prison. And after the work day is done they would be allowed to go into the yard or other recreational spaces like work-out areas and things like that. So basically he's given the same opportunities as other prisoners, but in his own very small personal spaces.

Werman: So will it be a form of solitary confinement?

Ugelvik: Yes. It's difficult to predict how long this solitary confinement will last. It is the goal of the correctional system that he will sometime in the future be able to interact with the other prisoners, but when, and indeed if, that will ever actually happen it's difficult predict.

Werman: What's then the reaction among Norwegians to these three rooms, these three cells that he's getting, the exercise machine and the personal computer?

Ugelvik: Perhaps in the beginning it was a bit controversial if you follow the internet debate forums, but after the correctional services posted the images I think that has silenced quite a bit.

Werman: Give us the philosophical underpinnings to corrects in Norway. How does the Norwegian prison system differ from the US?

Ugelvik: We don't have a life sentence that you have in the United States in Norway, so the long goal of the system will have to be to finally somehow release Breivik back into society. Either that or it would have to redefine its fundamental goals.

Werman: That was just seem so implausible here in the United States.

Ugelvik: Anything is possible. And in a way, the prison system being designed the way it is, that would be a success given that the entire system is geared towards rehabilitation, towards bringing people back into society as rehabilitated hard-working good citizens. However, it would be very difficult in twenty-one years when the case will go back to the courts, the courts have to decide, "OK, is Breivik now rehabilitated or does he still pose a danger to society?" It will be very difficult for them to make that decision.

Werman: Thomas Ugelvik is a criminology researcher at the University of Oslo. You can see the rooms where mass killer Anders Breivik will be spending his days, we have a slideshow from the high-security prison in Norway at