FILE - Convicted mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik is surrounded by prison guards as they arrive for his fourth and last day in court in Skien, Norway on March 18, 2016. A decade after the 2011 bombing and shooting spree that left 77 dead, Breivik is seeking early release from a 21-year sentence — the maximum term in Norway. (Lise Aserud/NTB scanpix via AP, File)
Previous Post
Next Post

By Mark Lewis, AP

Convicted mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik spends his days in a spacious three-room cell, playing video games, exercising, watching TV and taking university-level courses in mathematics and business.

Halfway through a 21-year sentence and seeking early release, Breivik, 42, is being treated in a way that might seem shocking to people outside of Norway, where he killed eight in an Oslo bombing in 2011, and then stalked and gunned down 69 people, mostly teens, at a summer camp.

But here — no matter how wicked the crime — convicts benefit from a criminal justice system that is designed to offer prisoners some of the comforts and opportunities of life on the outside.

Still, Breivik’s extreme case is testing the limits of Norway’s commitment to tolerance and rehabilitation.

“We have never had anyone in Norway who has been responsible for this level of violence before. And there has been debate here about whether part of the justice system should be changed for someone like him,” said Erik Kursetgjerde, who survived the slaughter on Utoya island as an 18 year old. However, he advises a slow approach that does not bend to Breivik’s desire to subvert the system.

During a three-day parole hearing this week that was broadcast to journalists, Breivik renounced violence, but also flashed a Nazi salute and espoused white supremacy, echoing ideas in a manifesto he released at the time of his killing spree. The outburst was familiar to Norwegians who had watched him deliver rambling diatribes during his partially televised criminal trial.

Convicted mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik arrives in court on the first day of a hearing where he is seeking parole, in Skien, Norway, Jan. 18, 2022. A decade after the 2011 bombing and shooting spree that left 77 dead, Breivik is seeking early release from a 21-year sentence — the maximum term in Norway. (Ole Berg-Rusten/NTB scanpix via AP, File)

“Obviously this has been extremely trying for survivors, the bereaved and Norwegian society as a whole,” said Kristin Bergtora Sandvik, professor of law at the University of Oslo, adding that there is debate in Norway over whether parole regulations should be overhauled in a bid to prevent this type of grandstanding.

In 2016, Breivik successfully sued the Norwegian government for human rights abuses, complaining about his isolation from other prisoners, frequent strip searches and the fact that he was often handcuffed during the early part of his incarceration. He also complained about the quality of the prison food, having to eat with plastic utensils and not being able to communicate with sympathizers.

While Breivik’s human rights case was ultimately overturned by a higher court, the episode showed just how far the Norwegian criminal justice system could bend in favor of prisoners’ rights and living conditions.

Breivik’s prison workout room (Courtesy Fox News)

“His conditions according to Norwegian standards are excellent,” said his prison psychiatrist, Randi Rosenqvist. She testified at the parole hearing that Breivik is still a public threat.

Even after Breivik’s outbursts at this week’s parole hearing, Norwegian authorities show no sign of wavering from treating him like any other inmate at Skien prison.

“In a Nordic prison sentence, the main punishment is deprivation of liberty. All the Nordic countries have systems based on a lenient and humane criminal policy that starts from the mutual understanding that punishment should not be any stricter than necessary,” said Professor Johan Boucht from the University of Oslo Department of Public and International law, who has also worked in Sweden and Finland. “The second aspect is rehabilitation, and the principle that it is better in the long run to rehabilitate the inmate than create a factory for criminals.”

A decade after the 2011 bombing and shooting spree that left 77 dead, Anders Behring Breivik is seeking early release from a 21-year sentence — the maximum term in Norway. (Lise Aaserud/NTB Scanpix via AP, File)

Up until about 50 years ago, Norway’s justice system focused on punishment. But in the late 1960s there was a backlash to the harsh conditions of prisons, leading to criminal justice reforms that emphasized kinder treatment and rehabilitation.

Norwegian sentencing and prison conditions are sharply at odds with other European countries such as France, where the worst criminals can face life imprisonment, with the possibility of an appeal only after 22 years.

Relatively few French defendants get the longest sentence, but among those facing it are Salah Abdeslam, who is the only surviving member of the Islamic State cell that attacked Paris in November 2015. Abdeslam has complained bitterly about his conditions in the Fleury-Mérogis prison, where he is under 24-hour surveillance in solitary confinement, the furniture is fixed to the floor of his tiny cell and he can exercise for just one hour daily.

Breivik’s comparatively lenient treatment inside prison does not mean he’ll get out anytime soon, or even in 2032, when his sentence ends.

While the maximum prison sentence in Norway is 21 years, the law was amended in 2002 so that, in rare cases, sentences can be extended indefinitely in five-year increments if someone is still considered a danger to the public.

Breivik’s lawyer, Øystein Storrvik, said in his closing arguments at the parole hearing that Breivik should be released to prove that he is reformed and no longer a threat to society, and that is not possible to prove while he is in total isolation.

But Breivik’s behavior during this week’s parole hearing was proof enough to some that he should never again see freedom.

Kristine Roeyneland, who leads a group for families of Breivik’s victims and survivors, said his comfortable prison conditions and ability to spread extremist views 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 coming weeks, some take an enlightened view of the Norwegian government’s apparent commitment to treat him like any other prisoner.

“People might be afraid that he’s using the law as a stage,” said Sandvik, the law professor. “But you can also say that, you know, he is being used by the law. He’s a megaphone for the rule of law.”

Previous Post
Next Post

49 COMMENTS

  1. So a whole nation of Quislings? That’s the breaks when a too rich country with a tiny population is woke. Pathetic…

  2. Yeah, they’ve been shockingly soft with Brevik. Norway isn’t unique in western Europe. They all treat prisoners quite well.

    It needs to be pointed out that most of Europe has less recidivism than the US. Maybe they are doing something right?

    It needs to be pointed out that the US incarcerates more people than any country in the world, with the possible exception of China and their Uigher population. Maybe we’re doing something wrong?

    I’m no bleeding heart, and I like the idea of punishment fitting the crime. On the other hand, our prison for profit scheme is immoral, unethical, and just plain wrong. Who are we to judge Norway or the rest of Europe?

    • You say you’re no bleeding heart, but the rest of what you write kind of tells us otherwise.
      If Europe indeed has less recidivism than the US, it could be because they have far less blacks than the US.

        • So, in the comments on a story about a crazed, homicidal white supremacist we find, surprise surprise, more white supremacists. First, France and several other European countries have significantly high populations of black skinned people because of immigration from northern Africa and historically progressive policies on race. Second, you fail to see further than the stats about crime rates in America. Did you ever ask yourself why blacks commit a higher rate of crime than whites? Could it have something to do with poverty, social engineering, poor cultural leadership and racist policies or literally anything other than their skin color? No? Must just be because black people are bad huh? How about the fact that minority communities are often disenfranchised from gun ownership so they’re controlled by crime gangs that brainwash kids who’s families can’t fight back, thus perpetuating a cycle of violence and hopelessness? Go back to your Klan clubhouse. You give regular 2nd Ammendment advocates a bad name.

        • You know, if you wave that Virtue Signaling Flag any more vigorously, you’re going to hurt yourself.

          People stating bald, verifiable fact are not ‘racist;’ They are ‘pragmatist.’ The truth is the truth, no matter how uncomfortable it may be to the thin-skinned. Compiling a myriad of excuses WHY the truth is the truth is, frankly, irrelevant; What matters are the facts, and they are irrefutable.

          Take your Social Justice Warrioring back to Salon, or The Trace, or wherever you came from.

        • Ending the conversation at “blacks commit more crimes than whites which is why places with less blacks have lower crime and recidivism,” is woefully ignorant and racist. That’s easy for most people to understand. If you aren’t interested in why something is a fact, then why bother reading anything at all? Why not just accept things are what they are so there’s no need to learn anything and let’s just all allow the world to turn as it always will. I’m not uncomfortable saying blacks commit more violent crim in America than whites. But the implication that they do because theyre black, and no other socio economic or cultural reason, is racist. Oh, and if I was from the trace, I wouldn’t have suggested arming minority communities, I’d blame guns on why blacks kill eachother in droves in liberal hellholes like Chiraq. I’m not virtue signaling, I’m making sure our 2nd ammendment community isn’t just painted with the same brush of racism that you clearly don’t seem to care about. Comments like the ones above drive minorities away from gun ownership and hurt our cause.

    • If we can’t judge Norway, and the rest of Europe, then we would be in no position to make a determination that we should change to be more like them.

  3. “He should be released to prove he is reformed.”

    This guy could work for Piglosi: we need to pass the bill to find out what’s in it.

    • Canadian Federal prisons only use metal non sharpen-able utensils. They cost about $15 each. If you try to sharpen one it shatters.
      We should tell the Norwegians. I don’t have a point, I just think the knives are cool.

  4. I doubt this psycho will ever get out. The authorities are likely to use that renewable 5-year extension to keep him behind bars for the rest of his days, or at least until he’s older than dirt.

    As far as being luxurious…compared to the U.S. prison system, absolutely. I’ve met and known a few folks who’ve been in county jail and also some who went to prison. I’d feel safer walking the streets of Beruit than I would doing a stretch in any major city jail or state pen.

    • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

      “I doubt this psycho will ever get out. The authorities are likely to use that renewable 5-year extension to keep him behind bars for the rest of his days, or at least until he’s older than dirt.”

      That’s what will happen…

  5. He killed 77 people and only got 21 years?? WTF?? Norway owes it to civilization to ether keep this monster locked up or put him down.

    • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

      “He killed 77 people and only got 21 years??”

      That’s their max sentence.

      He’ll never get out, because before parole is granted, the families of those wronged have a say on whether or not you get released. So, for a true crime of passion, someone may get out before they die of old age.

      There is no chance in hell the 77 families will ever forgive, so he will never get out…

      • Unassailable logic……for a three year old. Go back to the engineering site you pollute, and leave these discussions to the adults 🖕🤡.

        • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

          You’re gonna have to dig a whole lot harder to find where I spend most of my time, angry little boy.

          And if there’s one thing that little boys are incapable of doing, it’s hard work… 🙂

  6. He looks rehabilitated to me. I mean he has a nicely trimmed beard, a pressed suit, and a freshly shaved head. Let him go and show the world your system of justice works great. What could go wrong?

  7. I say let Breivik go free.
    And in doing so, the Twisted Sister song ‘Street Justice‘ pops into my head for some reason.
    A quick interwebby search will get you the song or lyrics…

  8. Hopefully he gets parole..I am all for second chances…A second chance one of his victims’ family members can rid the world of this scum..something NORWAY should have done!…

    • With luck he’ll be found at the bottom of a fjord with chains wrapped around him and concrete blocks tied to his feet.

      • avatar Geoff "A day without an apparently brain-damaged mentally-ill demented troll is like a day of warm sunshine" PR

        On an island, so it was isolated… 🙁

    • I remember reading about it being a pretty exclusive retreat for children of politically-connected individuals. The next generation of politicians and bureaucrats.
      No idea how true that is.

  9. So if a police officer executed him next time he was in court for a parole hearing, that officer would serve, what five days?

  10. Their system, their laws. We let murder suspects out with no bail, even with priors, in Chicago. Who are we to say anything about other country’s laws?

  11. Just going on what I’ve read and what my cousins in Norway have said, there is no rehabilitating this cat. He either needs an absolute whole life term, or needs to be executed with extreme prejudice.

  12. The system in the USA is a f’d as it can be.
    Don’t like Norway’s system then emigrate and become a citizen and vote.
    Same thing i tell foreigners here.

  13. “We have never had anyone in Norway who has been responsible for this level of violence before.”

    (laugh) wait until the boolsheviks take over. they’ll show you the meaning of violence.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here