In the crosshairs of conscience: John Kitzhaber's death penalty reckoning

To cope with his dread, John Kitzhaber opened his leather-bound journal and began to write.
It was a little past 9 on the morning of Nov. 22, 2011. Gary Haugen had dropped his appeals. A Marion County judge had signed the murderer's death warrant, leaving Kitzhaber, a former emergency room doctor, to decide Haugen's fate. The 49-year-old would soon die by lethal injection if the governor didn't intervene.
Kitzhaber was exhausted, having been unable to sleep the night before, but he needed to call the families of Haugen's victims.
"I know my decision will delay the closure they need and deserve," he wrote.
The son of University of Oregon English professors, Kitzhaber began writing each day in his journal in the early 1970s. The practice helped him organize his thoughts and, on that particular morning, gather his courage.
Kitzhaber first dialed the widow of David Polin, an inmate Haugen beat and stabbed to death in 2003 while already serving a life sentence fo…

Breivik claims his prison conditions are "inhuman" and violate EU Convention on Human Rights

Anders Breivik
Anders Breivik
SKIEN, Norway — Mass killer Anders Behring Breivik kicked off his return to court by making a Nazi salute Tuesday during his bid to improve conditions inside the Norwegian prison where he is being held in isolation for massacring 77 people in bomb-and-gun attacks.

Appearing in the public eye for the first time since his conviction nearly four years ago, the 37-year-old Norwegian and his lawyers are trying to convince a judge that his prison conditions are "inhuman" and violate the European Convention on Human Rights.

The government has rejected his claims, saying he is being treated humanely and with dignity despite the severity of his crimes.

With a dark suit and a shaved head, Breivik was led into the gym-turned-courtroom in Skien prison, where the trial is being held for security reasons.

After prison guards removed his handcuffs, Breivik turned to journalists covering the hearing and stretched out his right arm in a Nazi salute. Stone-faced, he remained there for a few seconds as guards stood idle and his lawyer Oystein Storrvik nervously took a sip of water.

Many survivors and families of victims are trying to ignore the trial, fearing it could reopen emotional wounds and give Breivik more attention. Still, some watched a retransmission of the proceedings from a courthouse in Oslo.

"It's pathetic. It's a farce," said Lisbeth Royneland, whose 18-year-old daughter, Synne, was killed in Breivik's shooting massacre on Utoya island. She now heads a support group for survivors and the bereaved.

In violence that stunned Norway on July 22, 2011, Breivik set off a bomb in Oslo's government district and then carried out a shooting massacre at the annual summer camp of the left-wing Labor Party's youth organization on Utoya.

He was sentenced to 21 years in prison, the maximum under Norwegian law, but his term can be extended as long as he's considered a danger to society. Even his lawyer said Tuesday that means Breivik is likely to be imprisoned for the rest of his life.

During his criminal trial four years ago, Breivik entered the court with his own salute, using a clenched fist instead of the outstretched hand that the Nazis used to greet Adolf Hitler. At the time Breivik described himself as a modern-day crusader, fighting to protect Norway and Europe from Muslim immigration.

In letters sent to media from prison, Breivik said he has abandoned his armed struggle and now wants to create a fascist movement while serving his sentence.

Before the hearing started Tuesday, Storrvik said the goal of the case was to improve Breivik's prison conditions, including allowing to him to interact with other prisoners and removing some restrictions on his mail correspondence.

"That is what we want because the conditions are hard now," Storrvik told The Associated Press.

Breivik is the only inmate in a high-security wing of Skien prison, 100 kilometers (60 miles) southwest of Oslo. He is allowed some mail correspondence but it is strictly controlled and he's not allowed to communicate with other right-wing extremists.

The government says the restrictions are well within the European Convention of Human Rights and are needed to make sure Breivik isn't able to build militant extremist networks from prison.

"The plaintiff has not shown any sign of remorse," government attorney Marius Emberland said in his opening remarks. "Breivik is a very dangerous man."

Breivik shook his head as Emberland spoke.

Norwegian authorities, known for their humanitarian approach to criminal justice, stress that Breivik has the same rights as any other inmate to challenge his imprisonment conditions.

"He is a citizen of Norway and even though he is convicted for a horrible crime, he hasn't lost his human rights," said Ina Stromstad, a judge serving as a spokeswoman for the Olso district court.

Breivik is to address the court on Wednesday. Both sides will call witnesses to testify before closing arguments on Friday. The judgment is expected about a month later.

Source: The New York Times, March 15, 2016

Anders Breivik: How bad is solitary confinement?

A typical cell in Skien prison
A typical cell in Skien prison, where Breivik is incarcerated.
Jailed Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik is complaining that being kept in solitary confinement is worse than the death penalty.

He says his conditions breach the European Convention on Human Rights.

The right-wing extremist, who killed 77 people in 2011, has been held on his own since his arrest, and experts believe he will spend the rest of his life behind bars.

What are Breivik's conditions?

Security rules mean Breivik's interaction with prison guards and a priest take place through a thick glass barrier.

The only physical contact Breivik has had since his arrest was with his mother, who was allowed to see him without the glass wall. That was a brief visit to say goodbye just before she died, his lawyer Oystein Storrvik said.

Although Breivik has three prison cells, daily exercise time, access to a computer, TV and videogames and can cook and do laundry, Mr Storrvik says he is being damaged by his isolation.

The lawyer cited prison reports that said Breivik could appear disoriented and forgetful, not remembering what day or time it was.

Norwegian government lawyer Marius Emberland said Breivik had to be held in isolation because he was a dangerous man who could influence other prisoners.

This was also for Breivik's own safety, he said, citing one instance when another inmate was able to get to the door of Breivik's cell and threatened to kill him.

What are Breivik's rights under the European Convention on Human Rights?

Article three of the convention states that no one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Article eight states that everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.

Oystein Storrvik, Breivik's lawyer, has argued that the right to privacy in Breivik's case means the right to have relationships with other people.

This means Breivik's rights are currently being violated, he says.

The European Court of Human Rights has considered several appeals against solitary confinement.

In 2005, it rejected an appeal by Ilich Ramirez Sanchez - better known as the terrorist Carlos the Jackal - who had spent eight years in solitary confinement in France after being jailed for the murder of three French police officers in the 1970s.

In the ruling, it said Ramirez Sanchez had been subject to relative, not total, social isolation, and this did not reach the minimum level of severity necessary to constitute inhuman treatment.

The court said this was partly because he had had regular visits from his lawyer, who had become his wife, as well as from 57 other lawyers.

In 2014, the court upheld a complaint by the jailed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) founder Abdullah Ocalan, who had been held alone on an island without visitors or access to information. However, the Turkish government had transferred five other prisoners to the island by the time the judgement was made.

Who else is held in solitary confinement?

The US whistleblower Chelsea Manning spent eight months in solitary confinement, while detainees at the Guantanamo Bay have also been subjected to repeated detentions in solitary of 30 days, the UN said.

Former South African leader Nelson Mandela also had stints locked up alone during his 27-year incarceration.

"I found solitary confinement the most forbidding aspect of prison life. There was no end and no beginning; there is only one's own mind, which can begin to play tricks," he wrote in his autobiography.

But relatively ordinary prisoners can also find themselves in solitary.

The organisation Solitary Watch estimates between 80,000 and 100,000 prisoners in the US are kept in some form of isolation.

Solitary Watch says isolating prisoners is seen as an easy way to maintain control over prisons.

Others may be put in solitary to separate them from other inmates because they are children, gay or report abuse by prison guards, the organisation says.

The measure is also used frequently in countries including Kazakhstan and Argentina, the UN said.

What is the longest period spent in solitary confinement?

Albert Woodfox was held in solitary confinement for more than four decades in a Louisiana prison over the murder of a prison guard in 1972.

Mr Woodfox, who had always said he was innocent, was freed in February after accepting a lesser plea of manslaughter in order to resolve his case.

What is solitary confinement?

There is no universal definition, but in 2011 the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Juan Mendez said it was any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others, except guards, for at least 22 hours a day.

Mr Mendez called for indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement lasting more than 15 days to be banned entirely.

What are the effects of isolation?

Craig Haney, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Santa Cruz, has studied the impact of solitary confinement on US prisoners over decades.

He says some people experience immediate terror from being placed in an environment where they cannot relate to other people, while others slip into long-term depression and hopelessness over time.

Starved of stimuli, their intellectual skills may decay and they may suffer memory lapses. Some "literally go insane," he says.

"That's an extreme case of somebody's identity becoming so badly damaged and essentially destroyed that it is impossible for them to reconstruct it," he told the BBC.

Mr Mendez has said solitary confinement can amount to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Source: BBC News, March 16, 2016

One of the world’s most notorious mass killers is challenging our idea of ‘inhuman’ treatment

Utoya island massacre
Survivors of the Utoya island massacre
Hours before, his bomb had erupted in Norway’s capital.

Anders Behring Breivik — dressed for war — was soon marching through a summer camp for the left-leaning party’s up-and-coming leaders, spraying bullets at teenagers. He was purportedly protesting multiculturalism.

Survivors later said that the gunshots sounded more like firecrackers or bursting balloons. The shrill screams that followed almost didn’t seem real.

“Is he coming?” a survivor said. “Is he? Oh God, I think he is.”

The survivors’ accounts, which were later told to GQ, captures July 22, 2011, when Breivik slaughtered 77 people in a bombing and shooting spree — quickly dubbed the deadliest massacre in Norway since World War II.

He was convicted of terrorism in 2012 and sentenced to 21 years in prison — Norway’s maximum sentence, which can be extended in five-year increments when criminals are deemed a threat.

Nearly five years later, Breivik, 37, has made his way back to the courtroom this week, suing authorities for perceived inhumane treatment behind bars.

Human rights advocates say Breivik’s case reignites a debate about the global justice system — highlighting the need to find a balance between punishment and the right to fair and humane treatment.

On July 22, 2011, Breivik, a far-right extremist, drove a white Volkswagen van into Oslo’s government district and ignited his bomb, according to GQ.

There, authorities said, he killed eight people.

Breivik, armed, then drove west to an island, Utoya, and opened fire — mainly on teenagers — at a summer camp for the youth league of the Labor Party.

“I’m going to kill you all,” Breivik purportedly told them, according to a survivor’s account in GQ. “You’re all going to die.”

Sixty-nine more were killed.

Earlier this week, Breivik was escorted into a makeshift courtroom inside a gymnasium in Norway’s Skien prison to make his case that the state violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

On Wednesday, he took the stand and vowed to fight for National Socialism.

“I have been a dedicated National Socialist since I was 12,” he said during trial, according to Reuters.

Breivik also compared himself to Nelson Mandela, the South African anti-apartheid leader, according to CNN, saying the difference between the two is Mandela “ordered action” and Breivik “carry out the action.”

In his lawsuit, Breivik is arguing that those responsible for his care violated the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects a person’s right “to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence” and prohibits “inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

During his testimony Wednesday, he complained that he had been strip-searched more than 800 times and that the microwaved meals they feed him are “worse than waterboarding,” according to news reports.

“For the past five years the state has tried to kill me,” he said, according to BBC News. “I don’t think many people would have survived as long as I have.”

Norway, which has abolished the death penalty as well as life sentences, is recognized for its rehabilitative approach to incarceration.

Breivik has been in isolation in Skien, not far from Oslo, in a three-room cell — with separate areas for sleeping, studying and exercising.

In his suite, he can type notes on a laptop (without Internet), run on a treadmill, watch TV and DVDs, listen to music or play games on a Sony PlayStation, according to the New York Times. He has also been permitted to take correspondence courses at the main university.

But Breivik has been unhappy with his stay.

In 2012, Breivik penned a 27-page letter to officials, listing his complaints, the New York Times reported at the time, citing the Norwegian newspaper Verdens Gang.

He didn’t have a thermos to keep coffee from turning cold.

He wasn’t allowed to keep moisturizing lotion for his skin.

The switches for his TV and his light were outside of his cell.

Then there was his writing pen — designed to keep inmates from stabbing themselves or someone else. He called it a “nightmare of a tool” that made his hand hurt.

More seriously, Breivik has complained about strip-searches, censorship and isolation — which his attorneys have said “isn’t human,” according to the New York Times.

Indeed, since Breivik was incarcerated, he has been separated from other inmates, and his interaction with professionals has been from behind a glass screen. His mother was the only person permitted to meet with him face-to-face, according to the BBC, and she died in 2013.

Years ago, Breivik wrote a 1,500-page anti-Islam and anti-liberal manifesto called “2083: A European Declaration of Independence,” in which he noted that prisons were the perfect place to recruit followers.

That’s why, authorities told the Guardian, they have been limiting Breivik’s contact with other inmates and closely monitoring his phone calls and letters to keep him from establishing an “extremist network.” Government attorneys said some 600 letters have been withheld from about 4,000 letters that were either written by Breivik or to him, because of those security concern, according to the Associated Press.

David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project, said that balance between punishment and protecting an inmate’s human rights is a “difficult balance to strike.”

“We want to hold people accountable for very serious crimes of this nature and we want to keep them from doing additional harm, but don’t want to torture them and we don’t want to damage them to the point where they can’t live in society,” Fathi told The Washington Post. “So that is the challenge of a humane and progressive criminal justice system.”

Fathi said that regardless of how comfortable Breivik’s physical surroundings are, “deprivation of human contact” can cause “excruciating pain.”

“Prisoners who have suffered the most extreme forms of abuse and mistreatment, from John McCain to Nelson Mandela, say that solitary confinement is the worst of all,” he said, adding that Breivik’s complaint about isolation “is not a frivolous argument.”

Norway’s parliamentary ombudsman, who looked into Breivik’s claims, released a report last year saying that Breivik’s isolation could turn into “inhumane treatment,” the Guardian reported at the time.

“The regimen in the very high security unit imposes very strict conditions on inmates’ freedom of movement and their possibility to have contact with other people,” ombudsman Aage Thor Falkanger, who investigates such claims, wrote after he visited Breivik’s prison conditions, according to the newspaper.

He added: “This, and the fact that in reality there is an extremely limited number of inmates in the very high security unit, means that this regimen represents an elevated risk of inhumane treatment.”

Falkanger recommended more interaction between guards and inmates to “reduce the risk of damage” from isolation and using “less intrusive security measures than handcuffs,” the Guardian reported.

The court hearings in the case were set to begin this month.

The goal, Breivik’s attorneys said, is for Breivik to gain contact with other inmates and face fewer restrictions on his communication with the outside world, according to the Associated Press.

“There’s justification for physical separation,” said Fathi, with the ACLU, “but you can have physical separation without social isolation. That’s the challenge in managing prisoners who are dangerous or who may be in danger themselves.”

Source: The Washington Post, Lindsey Bever, March 16, 2016

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