Mass Killer Is Enrolled in College: The Compassion of the Wicked is Cruel

Mass killer Anders Breivik gets to start a degree in political science courtesy of the government.

Just to refresh everyone’s memory, Anders Breivik slaughters a bunch of people to make some kind of political statement. Now he’s getting his college degree. reports, “Mass Killer Breivik Is Going to College.”

Convicted mass killer Anders Behring Breivik is going to college. The 36-year-old right-wing extremist, serving 21 years in prison for killing 77 people in politically motivated bomb-and-gun massacres in 2011, has been admitted to the University of Oslo’s political science program. He will stay in his cell to study, the university’s rector says. Breivik’s application was rejected two years ago after the university said his qualifications were insufficient. Though Norway has a rehabilitation-focused justice system aimed at helping inmates prepare for life after they get out, which includes giving them the right to pursue higher education, that submission stirred a debate over whether someone convicted of such a horrific crime should be considered.

Norway doesn’t have a justice system at all. It has an injustice system.

In lots of other areas, I think rehabilitation, along with restitution, should be the focus of any real justice system. If you steal from someone or otherwise damage their income or property, you can pay them back. In the Bible, if you stole an item and no longer could recover it you had to pay back double. That way you restored the victim and you experienced a commensurate loss yourself. After you had paid back in this way, you could be restored to full freedom in society.

But how do you pay double restitution for even one murder—let alone seventy-seven such murders? You don’t. You can’t. It is true that Breivik is losing his youth. Coming out of prison in his mid-fifties does take away a substantial part of his life. But when he is free, he will still be relatively capable of enjoying life. Yet every one of his victims will still be dead! Not one of them will have the life that Breivik is getting because he killed them.

[See also, “Why Are Firing Squads Such a Big Deal?]

And now, it seems, Breivik will have a political science degree when he gets released. Will he get paid for interviews? Will he get a book contract?

Why should this man get to live while his victims are still dead and their loved ones and relatives are still bereft?

I’m sure the Norwegians are convinced that their system is based on humanitarian principles. But what is humanitarian about allowing people to kill others and refusing to respond seriously? Some may think this is merciful. But it can’t be merciful because as soon as such light punishments get codified into law, they become the “rights” of the criminals. What we have here is not mercy but degraded justice.

If the dead could rise up and let Breivik receive a lighter penalty or no penalty, that would be understandable. But it makes no sense for the government to assume the right to impose a lighter penalty or a pardon on behalf of the victims. Ultimately, when they impose lighter penalties and rehabilitation they are simply ignoring the victims. They prefer to help the criminal and leave the victims without recourse.

That’s not a just way to treat murder victims.