Friday, July 29, 2011

"Just Shut Up and Watch"

That's the advice given in this gripping article about the recent horrific mass murder in Norway by white, Christian extremist Anders Behring Breivik.  Breivik meticulously planned a bombing of downtown Oslo and a shooting spree that killed 93 Norwegians on July 22.

Breivik is facing a maximum of 21 years in Norwegian prisons (plus optional, additional 5-year terms if he still seems a threat).  Norway's prison facilities are known worldwide for being ... well, an American would call them cushy, even "heavenly," but a European would simply call them humane.  Is 21 years too short, especially in a prison system like Norway's?  Will Wilkinson writes:

I say, yes, it does offend our sense of justice. It offends mine. But I am very wary of my own instinct for retribution, and of yours. ... If we are able to approach the matter rationally, which is hard, I think we will see that a society's main imperative is to guarantee the safety of its members by taking the criminal out of commission and then by punishing wrongdoers to the extent necessary to deter similar future crimes. I think we can be sure that Mr Breivik will not be left in a position to kill again. .... I doubt the severity of Mr Breivik's punishment will have anything at all to do with the future incidence of elaborately plotted massacres.
In general, my reaction to Norway's lenient, rehabilitation-focused justice system is not that the Norwegian sense of retributive justice is underdeveloped and defective, but that America's is. Norway has one of the world's lowest murder rates. America is worst in the developed world. Maybe we could learn something. Perhaps we should wonder why our detention facilities aren't more like Halden. Of course, we couldn't afford it, as we imprison such a disgracefully huge portion of our population, and in often sub-human conditions. ...
All evidence supports that proposition that Norway's criminal justice system is both practically and morally superior to America's. If America's abominably cruel and unjust system delivered results even remotely comparable to Norway's enviable level of civil peace and order, then there might be some reason to take seriously American animadversions against Norway's short sentences and humane prison. But we don't. We're not even close. So Americans should just shut up and watch. It could do us some good to see how a civilised society handles such a horrifying crime.
Lest this be dismissed as groundless, America-hating drivel, let's put things in perspective:
These appalling sentences are the norm in the United States, but there's nothing that convincingly shows that they have caused crime or drug use to drop.  

Our American notions of justice are so out of whack that we are just not qualified to judge a country like Norway as being "too soft" on crime.  


Anonymous said...

Breivik was NOT A CHRISTIAN by any accepted defintion! Please STOP calling him one!

SentenceSpeak said...

Duly noted. Thank you for commenting.