18 >> 77 Lives and a 21 year sentence World
Staɱer reects on punishment of terrorist in Norway Sarah Stromberg
When they were both about 13 years old, my brothers went to Europe on their own with my mother. Because of situations we could not control, I did not get to do this until I was 17. Even though I was- in my mind- quite a bit older than my brothers on my trip, I was about as giddy as a 13-year-old when I finally got there. We spent a week in Switzerland around Morges, and then a week in Paris, France. It was really an interesting experience. As fun and exciting as our time was there, I will probably not forget what happened just on the other side of the North Sea. It was the second day that we were in Paris. On the way down to breakfast in the hotel, our lovely guide Kat- a young lady from England- said, “Oh, did you hear about what happened in Norway?” The answer was a bewildered, “No?” I had no idea. That morning, she explained it all to us with a look of sad acceptance on her face. On July 22, 32-year-old Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing extremist, carried out two sequential terrorist attacks against the government and civilian population of Norway within two hours. Eight people died by a car bomb placed outside of the office of the Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg on the main land. The car bomb also critically injured ten people. Breivik then disguised himself as a police officer, gained access to the island of Utøya, and opened fire on the participants of a youth camp there, killing 69. Breivik was charged for terrorism, which holds the maximum time sentence in Norway- 21 years. Yes, that’s right: Norway doesn’t have a death penalty or a life sentence. Their prison systems are all about rehabilitating the prisoners and helping them safely back into society as soon as possible. And so, a man who caused 77 lives to end and impacted countless others will be released back into the Norwegian population at the age of 53. I was shocked. As a person who has grown up in a state highly approving of the death penalty, I’m sure I expected a man who killed 77 people to be convicted and sentenced to death in a heartbeat. Sadly, violence like that isn’t exactly uncommon in this day and age, but I still didn’t want to accept that this man’s sentence would hardly
equal his crime- at least not in my mind. Then there was the fact that we were in Europe at the time of the attack. In fact, my mother and I exchanged a worried glance at the news- yes, Norway and France are separated by the North Sea, but would we be allowed to leave when we had expected? We didn’t need to be worried, though. We got home on time and without any complications at all. But throughout that week, and the plane trips home, my mind would often wonder to Norway, and to the people no doubt struggling to emotionally recover from this tragedy. I didn’t forget it soon. When I got back in the states, I asked several people I knew, “Hey, did you hear about Norway?” fully expecting someone to chime in with a view similar to mine on the tragedy of so many deaths and the short sentence of the man’s punishment. However, the answer was, far more often than not, “No? What happened?” I would explain it all to them and then tell them about how he would get out of prison in a maximum of 21 years, and mostly the reaction would be “wow”. Seventy seven lives and a 21 year sentence later, the response was “wow”. I am not always a girl who believes in the death penalty. I have actually been known to say that it isn’t our decision who lives and who dies. But maybe- just maybe- a man who has made himself a monster like this deserves to die in my book. I learned a lot when I was in Paris and Switzerland. I learned that a Coke isn’t worth eight Euros, seriously mischevious Gypsies are everywhere, and making eye contact with street vendors isn’t smart if you’re an American. Mostly, though, I learned exactly how different Europe is from here. Their way of life is different, but so is their punishment. In a few years, I may forget about how many Euros a Coke costs, but I doubt I will forget about the tragedy in Norway.
>> Utoya Island, Norway
>> Decatur, Texas
>> 4663 miles lay in between Decatur, Texas and Utoya Island, Norway. >> Norwegian prisons detain 3,300 people in total, compared to the 2.3 million in American prisons. >> The population of Norway is 4,827,438. The population of the United States is 307, 006, 550. www.time.com/time