Published August 22, 2012
Accused mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik's Norwegian prison cell is more spacious than most New York City apartments.
The confessed killer, who will receive his sentence Friday for killing 77 people in a bombing and shooting rampage at a youth camp, was transported Wednesday to Norway's Ila Prison, just outside Oslo.
The high-security prison offers Breivik not one, but three 86-square-foot cells. One cell functions as a bedroom, another as an exercise room, complete with treadmill, and the third is a study, where Breivik can use a laptop computer.
Officials at Oslo's Ila Prison say the goal is to eventually transfer Breivik to join other prisoners at section of the jail that offers access to a school that teaches from primary grades through university-level courses, a library, a gym, and allows inmates to work in the prison's various shops and participate in leisure activities. It's all about a philosophy of humane prison treatment and rehabilitation that forms the bedrock of the Scandinavian penal system.
"I like to put it this way: He's a human being. He has human rights. This is about creating a humane prison regime," said Ellen Bjercke, a spokeswoman for Ila Prison.
Since Breivik's guilt is not in question, the key decision for the Oslo district court Friday is whether to declare him insane after two psychiatric teams reached opposite conclusions on his mental health.
If found to be mentally fit, Breivik would face a sentence of "preventive detention." Unlike a regular prison sentence -- which can be no longer than 21 years in Norway -- that confinement option can be extended for as long as an inmate is considered dangerous to society. It also offers more programs and therapy than an ordinary prison sentence.
If declared insane, the confessed killer will be the sole patient of a psychiatric ward that Norway built just for him at the prison, with 17 people on staff to treat him. It cost between 2 million and 3 million kroner ($340,000-$510,000), according to Norway's Health Ministry.
The facility, featuring a 100-square-foot cell with a bathroom, would offer Breivik some recreational and educational options with therapists from a psychiatric hospital, but not the breadth of options available to prison inmates.
Bjercke estimated the cost of keeping Breivik there at 7 million-10 million kroner a year ($1.2 million-1.7 million).
While in isolation, Breivik has access to TV and newspapers and a computer, but no Internet connection. He has three cells instead of one in "compensation" for not having access to activities offered to other inmates, Bjercke said. In addition, prison staff and a priest come see him more often than other inmates, so that he has someone to talk to.
"Isolation is torture," Bjercke said.
Breivik, like other prisoners, is free to communicate with the outside world with letters, as he has done since restrictions were lifted at the start of this year. His defense lawyers have said he is already planning to write books building on the 1,500-page manual on far-right terror he released before the attacks.
Prison director Knut Bjarkeid wouldn't comment on any special security measures taken to make sure Breivik doesn't escape. He said someone last escaped from the prison, which doesn't have armed guards, in 2004, but was caught within minutes.
During his trial, Breivik, 33, coolly described how he set off a car bomb that killed eight people and injured scores in Oslo's government district on July 22 last year. Then he unleashed a shooting rampage that left 69 people dead, mostly teenagers, at the summer camp of the governing Labor Party's youth wing. The youngest victim was 14.
In testimony that was deeply disturbing to the bereaved, the self-styled anti-Muslim militant said he was acting in defense of Norway by targeting the left-wing political party he accused of betraying the country with liberal immigration policies.
Breivik insisted during his trial that his actions were politically motivated and expressed horror at the possibility of ending up in "the madhouse." His lawyers have said Breivik would appeal an insanity ruling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.