Friday, 31 August 2012

Afterthought on Breivik's prison sentence

Blimey! It turned out the way I hoped! That happens so seldom to me...

So Anders Behring Breivik was sentenced to prison, not mental care, and has thus been deemed "sane" at the time of the crime. I was glad when hearing on the radio that the court had rejected the first investigation, the one that claimed that Breivik was not sane, stating among other things that you must differ between a political vision and a delusion caused by insanity! (Implicitly: 'Even if you find the political vision in question quite insane...!')

But the positive surprise soon got a foul after taste when I realised that I had, of course!, ended up in the same lot with the "harsher methods" propagators, and those who are "happy that he will never be out again". That is not me.

Sunbathing at Bastøy prison
I'm the kind of person who likes Bastøy prison in Norway. A "human-ecological" prison, where the interns have access to sauna, horse-back riding, tennis court, forests, beaches and sunbeds, and where they of course have a job to go to Mon - Fri. I found a British article about it here:

Norway’s controversial experiment – healing prisoners instead of punishing

There you can read that while prisons all through Europe have a reoffending rate of 70-75%, Sweden, Denmark and Finland have a reoffending rate of 30% and Norway of 20%. Bastøy has a reoffending rate of only 16%. Isn't that how it should be? Isn't that the point with the whole justice system? To make people stop doing crime?

Perhaps it isn't... It strikes me how defensive the British article is. It has phrases like: "whatever is happening here may be condemned, but cannot be ignored". What? 'Condemned', isn't that a kind of strong word? Why would you condemn something nice and good? I mean you could snarl at it, or laugh, or shake your head believing it will never work, but 'condemn', surely!... That's what you do with crimes against humanity! It could be understandable if it were costly, but it's not - quite the contrary! Bastøy is Norway's cheapest prison per intern, partly because the prisoners work and produce most of their own food, but also because they recycle, handle their own waste, use horses instead of cars and make use of local energy such as wind and solar power. It's in line with the philosophy: We are a part of our environment. If we do harm to nature or people around us, somehow it'll come back at us. And so we should be a positive part of our environment.

The British article says this (defensively) about the cost: "The cost will be of some consolation to those who think the prisoners are having it too easy". 'Some consolation', huh? We need comforting?

Well even the title: "Norway's controversial experiment – healing prisoners instead of punishing", what's so controversial about that? When I first saw the title I actually understood it as being meant ironically, but after having read the article, I changed my mind. Well it actually says, straight out: Fresh opinion polls show that the British oppose recent reforms to stop over-population of prisons and high reoffending rates by shortening punishments and placing prisoners in a work environment. The British instead want longer and harsher punishments. It's good to know the audience you're writing for...

Truly, we are losing. The cruel and ignorant are taking over. Those who don't care about the actual reoffending rates and call for harsher methods, are taking over. Breivik is taking over.

For this is exactly what Anders Behring Breivik is: Cruel and ignorant, calling for harsher methods. And so I would wish that Breivik ends up at Bastøy, and that he gets to learn that stuff about being part of nature, and that if you harm it, it comes back. And that how can we know that we're right if we don't discuss with an open mind, and learn to see it from the other side too? That we have to live and let live, not correct others with violence, because it could happen that we are wrong. That all we can do is to discuss and hope the others will listen, and if not, step down, despite still believing that we're right. Since it still could happen that we're wrong. I wish that he will realise that he was wrong, and change... Only then will I be able to say: "Got ya!"

Because Anders still believes that he's right. He claimed "defence of himself and others" in the court, meaning that he should be acquitted, since he had only done what he saw as necessary to protect the nation. And that he chooses not to appeal the conviction is only because he doesn't opine the state to be enlightened enough to understand what he understands, and "in a state which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just person is also a prison" (Henry David Thoreau). Such a just person, a martyr, is he. And of course, the harsher his prison conditions the more unjust is the state, and the more just and martyrish is Anders!

This was not what I wanted. I just wanted Breivik to be sentenced to prison instead of mental care, so that the society must regard him as sane, so that it wouldn't be so easy for them to dismiss him as just a lone lunatic, so that they would have to face up to their own responsibility, scrutinise themselves, and maybe realise how faulty the chosen, harsh road is, so that they could change direction, towards more solidarity, so that in the end we could get more humane, more constructive and of course shorter prison sentences! Yes. ...But to you, my readers, that was obvious from the start, wasn't it! ;)

See also:
On the conviction against Anders Behring Breivik, 2012-08-24 

More quotes about Bastøy from the Brittish article:
'Bastoy takes the opposite approach to a conventional prison where prisoners are given no responsibility, locked up, fed and treated like animals and eventually end up behaving like animals.

Here you are given personal responsibility and a job and asked to deal with all the challenges that entails. It is an arena in which the mind can heal, allowing prisoners to gain self-confidence, establish respect for themselves and in so doing respect for others too.’

'According to the governor, the principles upon which Bastoy are based can be traced back to a mixture of theories on psychology, sociology and ecology which emerged from the heady hothouse of early Seventies West Coast American academia. But the origins are even older.'

‘I believe the UK is going in the wrong direction – down a completely mad and hopeless path, because you still insist on revenge by putting people into harsh prison conditions which harm them mentally and they leave a worse threat to society than when they entered.'

‘This system actually has nothing to do with Norway specifically or this island, so I see absolutely no reason why it can’t be adopted in the UK.’

'Bastoy’s results, like the prisoners, the guards and indeed the governor, have an unsettling way of speaking for themselves.'

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