Moral Low Ground

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Porn, Room Service and Japanese Meditation: Unrepentant Mass-Murderer Anders Behring Breivik’s Prison Conditions Highlight Progressive Norwegian Outlook on Incarceration

Designer kitchen & private bathroom in Norway's Halden Prison, where unrepentant mass-murderer Anders Berhing Breivik may be headed if convicted

He readily admits to planning and executing the deadly terror attacks that killed 77 Norwegians, many of them teenagers, in Oslo and Utoya last July. He claims the bombing and shooting spree was “self-defense” and that he would do it all again if he had the chance. According to his twisted worldview, by slaughtering scores of innocent people, he was actually saving Europe from a Marxist-Islamic takeover.

In much of the United States, Norwegian mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik would be on a one-way collision course with a certain death sentence. But as his trial begins in Norway, the unrepentant killer has been enjoying eight months of prison conditions that would appall most US observers.

Breivik is incarcerated in Ila Prison, a former Nazi concentration camp. But don’t let the facility’s sinister past fool you. Although kept in solitary confinement for his own safety, Breivik passes the time in a ‘suite’ of three adjoining 86-square-foot (8-square-meter) cells. One is a bedroom, another is a gym equipped with a treadmill and the third has a computer, although Breivik is denied internet access.

He can, however, watch pornography. Breivik’s cell TV has 15 family channels and a DVD player, and he can play non-violent video games. He also enjoys Japanese meditation and has cigarettes delivered to his cell whenever he rings a “room service” bell.

Breivik enjoys three meals a day. For breakfast, he gets porridge or home-made brown bread with cheese or ham and a jug of black coffee. For dinner, traditional Norwegian fare like meatballs with gravy and potatoes or cod is on the menu.

Despite his pleasant prison environment, Breivik receives no visitors. He is allowed to, but both of his parents have turned their backs on him.

Breivik’s prison living conditions are all but unimaginable in the United States, where the prevailing societal mentality is one of punishment, not rehabilitation for violent criminals. But Europeans– and especially Scandinavians– tend to be more progressive. While some Norwegians are certainly outraged by Breivik’s prison life, most wouldn’t have it any other way.

Even more incredible (to Americans, anyway) is the fact that if convicted, Breivik could end up in Halden Prison, Norway’s second-largest. Reckoned by some to be the world’s most luxurious prison, Halden has no bars on its windows. It’s amenities include a rock-climbing wall, a recording studio for the musically-inclined, private bathrooms, designer furniture, kitchens equipped with refrigerators, flat screen TVs in cells and personal trainers. Prisoners are given questionnaires asking them how their incarceration experiences can be improved.

“In the Norwegian prison system, there’s a focus on human rights and respect,” ¬†Halden Prison Governor Are Hoidal said. “We don’t see any of this as unusual.”

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