In the United States, if you have been convicted of a crime and are later exonerated, you may be faced with fewer benefits than those guilty of a crime after serving a full prison sentence. According to the Innocence Project:

…the exoneree may lack a source of income, a means of transportation, health coverage and a stable home.



If Anders Behring Breivik is convicted of the crimes from the massacre at Oslo – the murder of at least 68 innocent lives – he may face a very different fate. By some standards, he may be rewarded with the following conditions:

Given the numerous violations of human rights throughout the world, I wonder whether many innocent citizens would welcome such an environment.

Dear readers,

Can you suggest an alternative environment for the convicted murderer?

While you’re brainstorming, here’s a description of the prison enviornment that Breivik may well face, referred to by Time magazine as the “most humane prison”:

Work of Art

To ease the psychological burdens of imprisonment, planners spent roughly $1 million on paintings, photography and light installations. According to a prison informational pamphlet, this mural by Norwegian graffiti artist Dolk “brings a touch of humor to a rather controlled space.” Officials hope the art — along with creative outlets like drawing classes and wood workshops — will give inmates “a sense of being taken seriously.”

The Outside In

The maximum sentence in Norway, even for murder, is 21 years. Since most inmates will eventually return to society, prisons mimic the outside world as much as possible to prepare them for freedom. At Halden, rooms include en-suite bathrooms with ceramic tiles, mini-fridges and flat-screen TVs. Officials say sleeker televisions afford inmates less space to hide drugs and other contraband.

Free Time

Security guards organize activities from 8:00 in the morning until 8:00 in the evening. It’s a chance for inmates to pick up a new hobby, but it’s also a part of the prison’s dynamic security strategy: occupied prisoners are less likely to lash out at guards and one another. Inmates can shoot hoops on this basketball court, which absorbs falls on impact, and make use of a rock-climbing wall, jogging trails and a soccer field.

Recording Artists

There’s also a recording studio with a professional mixing board. In-house music teachers — who refer to the inmates as “pupils,” never “prisoners” — work with their charges on piano, guitar, bongos and more. Three members of Halden’s security-guard chorus recently competed on Norway’s version of American Idol. They hope to produce the prison’s first musical — starring inmates — later this year.

Prison Yard

Halden’s architects preserved trees across the 75-acre site to obscure the 20-ft.-high security wall that surrounds the perimeter, in order to minimize the institutional feel and, in the words of one architect, to “let the inmates see all of the seasons.” Benches and stone chessboards dot this jogging trail.

Open Wide

Norwegian inmates lose their right to freedom but not to state services like health care. Dentists, doctors, nurses and even librarians work in the local municipality, preventing a subpar prison standard from developing. On-site, Halden boasts a small hospital and this state-of-the-art dentist’s office.

Village People

To help inmates develop routines and to reduce the monotony of confinement, designers spread Halden’s living quarters, work areas and activity centers across the prison grounds. In this “kitchen laboratory,” inmates learn the basics of nutrition and cooking. On a recent afternoon, homemade orange sorbet and slices of tropical fruit lined the table. Prisoners can take courses that will prepare them for careers as caterers, chefs and waiters.


  1. #1 george.w
    July 26, 2011

    So: they’re going to treat him like a human being? How very… un-American.

    Seems to work for them though. They have one-eighth our murder rate, and less than half our recidivism rate. You can’t argue with success.

  2. #2 Jeff
    July 26, 2011

    Indeed. From a Reddit reader (Reanicus):

    1.He will serve more than 21 years, he will be charged under crimes against humanity and the new terrorism law (which was made before this catastrophe). While he might receive the sentence 21 years in prison he will be kept in involuntary detention for as long as the authority wants.

    2.I have absolutely no qualms with the fact that our prisons are not a hell-hole nor that he will receive activity and treatment. Prisons shouldn’t be a hellish existence of torture-like qualities. Some people who obviously haven’t been confined inside a building for X amounts of years don’t realize that isolation from society isn’t necessarily deemed “paradise on earth”.

    3.As long as he is in prison, staying the hell away from society with his hate-filled delusions of warfare and forgotten by society, then I regard that as mission success. I have no desperate need to see him suffer in order to feel that justice has been served. I want him forgotten.

  3. #3 TheDudeDiogenes
    July 26, 2011

    Just because everyone can’t have a decent standard of living, that means criminals can’t? What are the premises of this argument?

  4. #4 Vince whirlwind
    July 27, 2011

    It means Norway spends more money per capita making criminals’ lives comfortable than it spends making non-criminals’ lives comfortable.
    It’s the same here in Australia. In fact our local prison even allows criminals’ spouses to visit them in prison, so that criminal scum can keep breeding even when imprisoned.

    Personally, I think criminals should be confined in barracks-style accomodation, fed the cheapest food possible which they have to cook themselves, and required to perform hard labour.

  5. #5 Tamakazura
    July 27, 2011

    “hell, we should chain them up on galleys and ship them off to do hard labor in a frontier thousands of miles from civilization in a land that’s half desert half giant spiders. Oh damn we’re already in Oz. Hmmmm…where can the Aussies have a penal colony? Where can we send the criminal scum? I’ve got it! The island of trash in the doldrums!”

  6. #6 Drivebyposter
    July 27, 2011

    I think

    I lol’d

  7. #7 Johan Berggren
    July 27, 2011

    On an ethical level I have always had a problem with “justice” systems that promote the joy of hurting the criminals. Even if it can be understood from the perspective of certain victims it isn’t necessarily a good idea to use all heartfelt feelings as a basis for law.

    Now lets be scientific. Norway has a recidivism rate of 20% in 2 years after release. In US the same rate is about 50% and in Australia it is nearly 40%.


    From the prespective of Sweden, which has a recidivism level of a bit above 40%, the american way doesn’t seem like a good basis for inspiration.

    The norwegians are more or less going to lock Breivik up and throw away the key. Which is a good way to protect the public. It will be a long time before he can roam free in a prison park. If not else for his own protection. Even the most hardened criminals usually don’t see it as OK to massacre a summer camp.

  8. #8 Jeff
    July 27, 2011

    Thanks for the information. I agree that the American system is not a good model and there is no “joy” anywhere in this horrible tragedy.

  9. #9 Snarkyxanf
    July 27, 2011

    Brievik wanted, according to his manifesto, to be a martyr for Christendom.

    He should be locked up in risible comfort with a muslim cellmate.

  10. #10 Surgoshan
    July 27, 2011

    They should give him a small apartment and a minimum wage job.

    In Tehran.

  11. #11 Coronella Keiper, USA
    July 28, 2011

    @Snarkyxanf: Although most Muslims are not in jail, any more than most Christians, most Muslim’s would not lower themselves to kill him or even to beat him up, as he comes across as a fake Christian in the same way that there have been those who faked a belief in the Koran in order to justify their insanity. The words of Jesus do not justify Breivik at all. And as to his hope that his anti-social actions would cause a reaction, yeh: The best reaction to haters is 1)to refuse to hate them, 2)to make sure that they are stopped, and 3)to strive mightily to get on with one’s own life and even to learn in the positive sense from the ordeal. Young Emma Martinovic patiently described what she experienced, and I am sure that she did it so that the rest of us can learn from what went right (praying steadily in order to remember God; fleeing swiftly and not being slow about it; and helping others to do their best to live and not give up)and to learn from what went wrong. This teenager who came to Norway as a refugee is probably aware, very aware, that to force oneself to speak and speak and remember and remember of such a happening can cause great pain and even make the healing process very difficult. Emma Martinovic is definitely not a victim (not “splat” on the windshield of a car, not a “road-killed” animal); she is not a survivor (limping along, paranoid and whining, scared of the future); but SHE IS AN OVERCOMER! Emma Martinovic has done her best and is continuing to do her best for herself and for all of us. She allows herself to be real, and to be honest about a temporary need — lots of Rest & Relaxation — as she handles the memories and becomes even more a winner, but her whole discourse with us has been that of an Overcomer. “And they overcame by the blood of The Lamb and the word of their testimony, and they valued not their lives even unto death.” She dared to care about others when the situation looked like she could flee faster if she just gave up caring about others and took care of herself. Was she counting on God, who she was praying to continually? Was she focusing on the fact that He values us so much that she didn’t need to weigh probabilities, to set a value on her life, as God does this best, and all she needed to do was to remember him and to obey him by faith?

    Hallel-u-YAH! She is alive! I sure am glad.

  12. #12 Liz K
    July 29, 2011

    Yeah: so the Scandinavians (and Finns, btw) are civilized people.. and, so? What would you expect of a technically, socially advanced, pretty much egalitarian and wealthy civilization? Where incidentally, I wish I lived, rather than UK: much as I love Cornwall.

    Our ruling elite and yours (US’s) should get a clue. We the masses DO NOT WANT neoliberal economics. Multiculturalism is sth of a side argument. We DO NOT WANT TO PAY FOR THE RICH’S MESSES. (As your idiot Tea Party Republicans are hopefully going to find out sooner rather than later! With their debt blackmail!)

    America is unfortunately a racist slave/serf society, which persecutes poor whites as well. This reflects its composition/rationale from its foundation as part of early capitalism. I’ve been reading up on Amazon and places abt white slavery: not so much the Muslim kind, though the Turks did play a part in that: but the “bonded service” kind; that ppl were supposed to commit to to “pay their passage”: sometimes they didn’t go free or weren’t..

  13. #13 Liz K
    July 29, 2011

    ..given land at the end of it! Plus the 16th/17th c wealthy “entrepreneurs” raided the prisons/orphanages of merry old England for all the “warm bodies” they could find.. not so much a penal policy as people trafficking.. oh and they raided Ireland.. and sent Scots there as serfs who had been cleared off their own country.. all to serve the pockets of the rich.. black slaves were in fact very much the latecomers in this game.. only of course then it was easy to persecute them bcos they looked different. Just thought I’d go a little into all that..

    As for Scandinavians, as far as I can see they haven’t had any slaves since Viking times. And they stopped serfery sooner than other not-so-developed countries like Russia.

    They don’t have too much to feel quilty for as I can see. Unlike so many other nations..

    Incidentally: a few years ago I was researching the Finnish prison system on the internet; one presentation which struck me was all about how they got the idea to go humane! It was not only because..

  14. #14 Liz K
    July 29, 2011

    ..the Finns rejected the rapefest slave system of the US, though they did! It was for a *second* yet more interesting motive: previously apparently the Finnish prison system was based on the brutal one of their neighbours the Russians. Russia always wanted to make a colony of Finland: they were finally rebuffed after WWII. After Finland had thrown off its colonizer.. *everything Russians did/instituted became of highly ill repute/political suicide* including the penal system.* Enter the kinder, cuddlier “Scandinavian model”! 🙂 (Would that other countries could get a clue likewise!)

    (And no sorry I can’t provide a web reference for this story: I saw it years ago!)

  15. #15 Katharine
    July 30, 2011

    Those are some nice no true Scotsman arguments Coronella’s got going there.

  16. #16 Valerie
    July 30, 2011

    You can say what you like, but Norway has a very low crime rate and a low rate of recidivism. I find Anders to be a loathsome human being, but you can’t throw out rule of law and humaneness when they are inconvenient. You don’t sell your own soul when baited by a monster. If you did, he would win.

  17. #17 Fred Peterson
    July 31, 2011

    I fail to see why people want both highly punitive and long jail sentences. The question is simple: is there any chance you’ll ever let the person out again?

    If not, you might as well kill them right away and be done with it. Their life is wasted either way.

    But if there is a chance, do you want to release someone who’s angry, bitter, has no idea how to relate to people without physical coercion, no skills other than prison survival, and has no job prospects other than mugging little old ladies?

    5 years or more changes anyone. Would you like them to change for the better or for the worse?

    The goal is to release someone who can behave well without a guard looming over them. Which means a prison where the guards don’t loom.

    Is this so hard to understand?

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