Prison plans to rebuild for Breivik

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Ila Prison west of Oslo plans a major rebuilding project, both to boost security and to accommodate its most famous inmate, confessed terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Costs remain unclear, but it will be the latest major expense tied to Breivik’s terrorist attacks of July 22.

Oslo’s city courthouse is also due to undergo major rebuilding to accommodate Breivik’s trial, due to start in mid-April. Now prison officials have told newspaper Aftenposten that they need to provide Breivik with “more humane” terms of incarceration when his court-ordered period of full isolation comes to an end.

Special, high-security requirements
Most prisoners in Norway are allowed to mingle with other inmates, but Breivik needs to be kept in a special, high-security area reserved for those who risk being attacked by other inmates or who are mentally unbalanced. The prison has no such accommodation at present, where even such high-risk prisoners could mingle during the day under strict supervision of prison guards. The new area they envision would allow that, providing high security but also various social activities.

“It will be a sort of controlled fellowship, so two or three to four inmates who can get along could spend some time together,” prison director Knut Bjarkeid told newspaper Aftenposten on Friday. “It is clearly unfortunate if Anders Behring Breivik is left alone over time … without contact with anyone other than prison staff. This is a solution that can give him some fellowship.”

While prison staff in many countries might not care so much about the well-being of a man who killed 77 persons, Norwegian prisons are known for providing relatively comfortable accommodation aimed at rehabilitation and preparing convicts for re-entry into Norwegian society. Most legal experts remain convinced Breivik will never be released from custody, despite Norway’s maximum prison term of 21 years, but prison staff still feel obligated to offer “humane” incarceration to all their inmates.

Already provided with three cells
They already, according to Aftenposten, have made three cells available for Breivik’s use – one where he can rest or sleep, another where he can work, and a third where he can exercise. Their idea was reduce the ill effects of being held in solitary confinement in a prison division housing no other inmates.

A representative for Ila’s other prison guards supported Bjarkeid’s attempts to accommodate Breivik. “A person can be destroyed by sitting in solitary confinement,” Jan Arve Blom of a national penal association’s local chapter (Fengsels- og Friomsorgsforbund ved Ila) told Aftenposten. “Contact with other inmates is normal. It will be a humane and responsible offer (for Breivik).”

Blom also praised plans to construct a new building at Ila’s entry gate that all visitors would need to pass through, and be subject to tighter controls. “That will be a big plus for security,” Blom said. “It’s important to confiscate unwanted items before they enter the prison.” The new building would also lower the risk of escape.

Psychiatric evaluation due mid-week
Court-appointed psychiatrists are due to deliver their evaluation of whether Breivik can or should stand trial by Wednesday. They have had 13 conversations with Breivik since his arrest and their report will be considered decisive regarding whether Breivik can be held criminally liable for his actions.

Prosecutors and lawyers for survivors and victims’ families stress that even if Breivik is determined to be insane, he won’t be released. “He’ll be held in confinement as long as he’s judged to be a threat to society and considered dangerous,” attorney John Christian Elden told newspaper VG last week.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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