The horrific mass murder of young people in Norway over the weekend shines new light on what is wrong with the criminal justice system in the United States. Norway is usually known as a country of peace and kindness. But, over the weekend that illusion was shattered with the murder of at least 100 people.
By now we have all read about not only the cushy prisons in Norway, but the fact that the maximum prison sentence is 21 years. There is a possibility that there could be extensions of this term in five year increments if the killer is proven to still be a risk to society.
The fact is that we must use this event to look at our own prison system and the huge lengths of time we send people to prison for on non-violent offenses. There is no doubt that a life term or worse should be given to the Norway killer. But a term of 21 years is handed down far too often in the U.S.. This is true especially in drug related cases. In many cases, especially Federal Prison cases, there are mandatory minimums of 10 years.
The U.S. is simply the Incarceration Nation. We have no idea how to hand down equal justice nor do we have consistency between State and Federal Courts. We have few prison programs and even less mandatory re-entry programs. This despite the fact that over 94% of people in prison are coming out and most in less than five years.
Change is most often brought about by catastrophic events. Let us pause and remember those in Norway and hope that positive change comes to criminal justice systems all over the world. Here is to Equal Justice. Let the Time fit the Crime.