Norway's University of Oslo accepts Anders Breivik. How does Norway treat its criminals?

Breivik will study political science at one of Norway's most respected universities – from behind bars.

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    Anders Behring Breivik listens to the judge in the courtroom, in Oslo, Norway on Friday, Aug. 24, 2012
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Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik, notorious for the 2011 Oslo massacre in which he killed 77 people, has secured admission into the University of Oslo, according to a statement by the university’s rector.

Four years ago, Breivik set off bombs in central Oslo before perpetrating a shooting massacre at a nearby youth camp that left 77, mostly children and young adults, dead.

Now, he’ll study political science at one of Norway’s most respected universities.

Breivik has already been “studying certain course modules since first applying to the University of Oslo in 2013 but will now be taught as a full student,” the BBC reports.

Ole Peter Ottersen, the university’s rector, acknowledged the “moral dilemmas” in a statement on his blog.

Otterson said the institution had students who were at the scene of his murders and had lost loved ones in the tragedy.

But he stood firm on the university's need to adhere to its own principles.

“Our rules say that an inmate, like any other citizen in this country, has a right to pursue higher education on the basis of merit,” Otterson said in an article on The Guardian from last year. “By sticking to our rules and not clamouring for new ones we send a clear message to those whose misguided mission it is to undermine and change our democratic system.” 

Although Breivik will now have access to tertiary education as a full student, his jail term remains unchanged. In 2012, he was sentenced to the maximum 21 years in prison and will continue to remain there as he studies.

Breivik will have no contact with staff or students, the rector’s statement notes. He will also be disadvantaged by an inability to attend compulsory seminars, receive personal guidance from staff and access digital learning resources.

At trial, Breivik said his attacks were motivated by a desire to stop the Islamization of Norway, the BBC reports.

In his Guardian article, Ottoman hoped Breivik would “reflect on his atrocities and misconceptions” through the opportunity to read about how “pluralism and respect for individual human rights, protection of minorities and fundamental freedoms have been instrumental for the historical development of modern Europe.”

Norway has been known for its emphasis on rehabilitation over retribution in its criminal justice system.

A recent Monitor article comparing prison systems across countries noted the following:

Norwegian Governor Arne Nilsen, a clinical psychologist by profession, told The Guardian the reasoning behind their treatment of prisoners.

The punishment is that you lose your freedom. If we treat people like animals when they are in prison they are likely to behave like animals […] It is important that when they are released they are less likely to commit more crimes. That is justice for society.”

A New York Times article from earlier this year reports there is no death penalty or life sentence in Norway and maximum sentences for most crimes are 21 years. However, The Times also notes Breivik’s term can be extended indefinitely for five years at a time, if he is deemed a continuing threat to society by the court.

 
 
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