Democracy in America shares this story about Norway’s “plush and unusual punishment” of its most violent criminals—including flat screens, private restrooms, and a recording studio. However, the author chokes back what he suggests is an irrational sense of moral offense at the over-indulgent treatment of criminals in order to offer tacit endorsement of this aspect of Norway’s “morally superior” criminal justice system:
If we are able to approach the matter rationally, which is hard, I think we will see that a society’s main imperative is to guarantee the safety of its members by taking the criminal out of commission and then by punishing wrongdoers to the extent necessary to deter similar future crimes. I think we can be sure that Mr Breivik will not be left in a position to kill again. So the main question, to my mind, is whether a comfortable (and possibly relatively short) detention is sufficient to deter similar crimes. Though I do think the severity of punishment has some effect on the frequency of crimes, I doubt the severity of Mr Breivik’s punishment will have anything at all to do with the future incidence of elaborately plotted massacres.
. . . .
[T]he point of a criminal justice system in a civilised society is not the mental peace of those collaterally wounded by crime.
This conclusion surely is not a settled point that can be asserted so confidently. Indeed, it is undermined by the very fact of our deep resolution to ensure humane treatment of prisoners: The way we treat prisoners is a reflection of our values. Locking people up is about more than merely determent. While its “main imperative” is indeed the guarantee of safety, that is a far cry from positing that the people’s sense of moral justice and “mental peace” is of no moment. Indeed, a people’s moral precepts are the foundation of any system of law in the first place. Under-punishment disserves those moral precepts just as over-punishment does.