Reaction was swift on Wednesday after a report from Norway’s civilian ombud expressed concerns that prisoners held in high-security facilities can suffer from being isolated. There currently are only two prisoners held in such facilities, one of whom is the mass-murderer who attacked Norway’s government and Labour Party on July 22, 2011.
A commentator for state broadcaster NRK noted on national radio that it was “absurd” to place mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik in the role of “victim,” after he killed 77 people “and damaged so many other lives” in his twin attacks. Breivik, an ultra right-wing extremist known for craving media attention, is currently serving Norway’s longest jail sentence of 21 years under terms that may keep him in prison for life.
While many survivors of Breivik’s attacks have called on the media to ignore the mass murderer, as they try to get on with their lives, he has managed to occasionally grab attention. Much of it evolves from his frequent complaints about the conditions under which he’s serving, even though special cell units with multiple rooms were created for him at two different prisons. He’s also been allowed to study for a university degree but remains separated from other prisoners, not least out of prison officials’ concerns for his own safety.
He has been moved back and forth between the prisons in Bærum and Skien, after he reportedly has “worn out” prison staff at each facility. He also recently sued the state over what he claims are “inhumane” prison conditions, with his case coming up for trial next year.
The report from Norway’s Sivilombudsmannen has no direct connection to Breivik’s lawsuit, according to NRK. It may help support Breivik’s claims, however, since it contends that those held in high-security facilities are subject to strict limits on their “freedom of movement and possibility for human contact.” NRK reported that Breivik is allowed just one hour of “social contact” per week, with prison staff. His visitors are limited to a “professional friend” and a military chaplain.
NRK reported that the ombud, charged with ensuring that Norwegian prisons meet international standards, recommends “expanded” contact between high-security inmates and staff, and “other measures to reduce the risk of isolation damage.” The director of the Skien prison, Ole Kristian Borlaug, told NRK it was “positive” that the ombud had investigated Breivik’s prison conditions and that he and his staff would read the report closely.