Three-Room Suite for Murderer

November 6, 2012
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“Convicted of killing 77 people in a horrific bombing and shooting attack in July last year, the Norwegian extremist Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced on Friday to 21 years in prison,” English Journalist Sarah Lyall wrote, covering the sentencing and the tragic events that were unleashed on the Norwegian public by Ander Breivik. Not only does Breivik’s sentence come out to less than four months per victim, Breivik will also be spending his time in a 3-room suite complete with a laptop, television, plenty of living space, and exercise equipment. This verdict is one that has had a slightly polarizing response, mostly because the news is very lightly spread throughout the world. Norway focuses on having a very tolerant and merciful justice system. The moral ideals that vary from culture to culture are very apparent in the responses to Breivik’s verdict; my own being one of them.

When I’ve done something against my parent’s wishes, I’m often stripped of a privilege that may or may not be relevant to the incident. Regardless, my parents use a method that will put me in an uncomfortable situation; one that inconveniences me or the things I want to do. Through this they teach me that if I do something wrong that will negatively affect others, then I will be negatively affected myself. This is the idea that was been dropped, more or less, from the Norwegian justice system, at least in this case. Instead of inconveniencing Breivik and putting him in a lower-quality prison, with lower-quality food and a generally lower quality of life, the ruling has placed him in a more or less comfortable living environment.

The goal that the general population, and the judicial system of Norway have, is to ensure that Breivik is receiving some sort of remediation. Breivik escaped the ruling of insanity, and as a result was placed in a “normal” prison with a “normal” sentence of just 21 years. In the eyes of the Norwegians, this is enough. Lyall touched on the thoughts of a survivor, “’If he is deemed not to be dangerous any more after 21 years, then he should be released,’ Mr. Ihler said. ‘That’s how it should work. That’s staying true to our principles, and the best evidence that he hasn’t changed our society.’” Clearly there is a large gap between the goals of the Norwegian judicial system and the United States’. In fact, the U.S. has been criticized before on its apparently cruel judgment and sentencing of its criminals. While it may be true that the more lenient system that the Norwegian’s enforce may be just as effective as the United States’ system is, but it’s still valid to question whether 21 years in prison will be enough to protect the Norwegian population from the wrath of Breivik.

The cultural difference between the United States and Europe in general have bred difference stances on the judicial system, and opinions on what an appropriate verdict is and isn’t. The topic of the legitimacy of Breivik’s sentencing is still up for debate, and the outcome hasn’t necessarily proven itself to be one way or another. It will be interesting to see if my parent’s immediate and inconvenient justice will prove more effective, or if the lenient, just-enough punishment of Norway really will be enough to protect its citizens.

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