On July 22, 2011, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people in a bombing and shooting attack in Norway. He set off a bomb in the government district of Oslo and later traveled to Utoeya and shot people attending the Norwegian Labour Party’s summer youth camp. Many of the victims were teenagers.
After the attacks, Breivik was sentenced to the maximum possible sentence of 21 years in prison. In Norway, there is neither the option for the death penalty nor a life sentence.
Now, Breivik is currently in prison but is enrolled to take classes at the University of Oslo. Even after the awful things he had done to the country, they are going to allow him to receive an education.
After reading this one might think “How could someone so horrible be given the privilege of attending school?” But there are reasons as to how this is much more positive than it is negative.
According to an article in BBC News, Breivik is focused on studying political science. He has not been admitted into a program where he will officially receive a degree, but he is able to study the basics of the subject. He is not allowed to physically attend the University and will be kept under high-security at Telemark Prison in Skien. He will also have a study room available to him.
There was an article in The Guardian that explained how a Norwegian prison operates. The inmates are treated with respect and, surprisingly, Norway has the lowest reoffending rate in all of Europe. Bastoy Prison in Norway stands out specifically for its respect toward prisoners.
“It’s like living in a village, a community. Everybody has to work. But we have free time so we can do some fishing, or in summer we can swim off the beach. We know we are prisoners but here we feel like people,” one of the prisoners said about Bastoy.
With the prisoners living like this, they are not constantly witnessing violence, which most prisons seem to have. Being surrounded by the horrors of prison can lead to trauma and aggression. In this situation, after being released prisoners are more likely go back to their old lifestyle since all they have seen is severe violence.
By treating inmates with a bit more respect, it can really improve what they take out of their experience in prison. Thorbjorn, a guard at Bastoy, explains why Norwegian prisons take this approach.
“The idea is they get used to living as they will live when they are released,” he said. This makes more sense since now the prisoners will at least have a perspective of the type of lifestyle they should be living once they are released from prison.
Many would disagree with this and say how could people who have committed awful acts be allowed to be treated with any fairness at all? I used to think the same way, as well. But, putting them in an environment where all they see is rape and violence is not going to help anyone better their lives in prison. If anything, it will just make it worse.
A prison in Ithaca, N.Y., which is located close to Cornell University, has paired with institutions of higher education, New York State and a philanthropic foundation to offer inmates the chance to earn an associate’s degree.
According to an article on the Forbes website, “An inmate’s ability to make it on the outside depends on whether he is returning to a stable family, whether he has mental health or substance abuse issues and on his education and employment-related skills.” By earning a degree prisoners have a higher chance of earning a job and, if more convincing is needed to have this be implemented elsewhere, they “have less need for public assistance and contribute to society, in the form of taxes and purchasing power.”
Christina Danno is a senior philosophy and English studies major. Questions or comments regarding her column can be sent to email@example.com.