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Confessed killer Breivik to be held in 'preventive detention'

August 24, 2012 |  6:57 am

LONDON -- Found criminally responsible Friday for the attacks that killed 77 people in Norway last year, Anders Behring Breivik now faces a lengthy confinement in the three secured rooms where he has already been held in isolation for months.

Breivik, 33, was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum allowed under Norwegian law, although the sentence can be extended if he is determined to present a threat to society. A panel of judges ruled that he was sane and therefore guilty of the July 22, 2011, attacks in which he planted a car bomb in the Oslo city center and then gunned down 69 people, many of them teenagers, on nearby Utoya island.

Ila Prison had prepared itself to hold Breivik whether he was found sane or insane. With Friday's verdict, he is likely to stay under "preventive detention," Norway's strictest form of detention, which is imposed on dangerous offenders to prevent them from striking again.

Breivik will be confined to the same three rooms he has occupied throughout the trial, including one for exercise and one for reading. His letters are X-rayed, opened and read for signs of criminal activity.

Keeping him there will cost more than $1.2 million annually, more than seven times what Norway usually pays to house inmates in preventive detention, according to prison spokeswoman Ellen Bjercke.

Breivik is banned from meeting inmates in other wings, but depending on security assessments, “we may in due time ease up on the security arrangements and integrate him into the ordinary prison population,” Bjercke said.

Part of Ila Prison had already been rebuilt to allow for psychiatric care, provided by the Dikemark Psychiatric Hospital, in the event of an insanity verdict for Breivik. A new ward for inmates suffering mental health problems is slated to be finished by fall of next year, Bjercke said.

Some foreign observers have marveled at Norway's maximum sentence of 21 years and the seemingly luxurious conditions in which prisoners are held. But the Scandinavian nation prides itself on a liberal justice system that treats criminals humanely.

“The punishment is the restriction of liberty; no other rights have been removed by the sentencing court,” a fact sheet on the Norwegian correctional system states. “Therefore the sentenced offender has all the same rights as all others who live in Norway.”


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