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Sweden mulls scrapping mental care as penalty
Huddinge psychiatric clinic, south of Stockholm.

Sweden mulls scrapping mental care as penalty

Published: 03 Apr 2012 13:08 GMT+02:00
Updated: 03 Apr 2012 13:08 GMT+02:00

A recent investigation into psychiatric legislation, presented to minister for social affairs Göran Hägglund on Tuesday, suggests scrapping the possibility for courts to sentence criminals to compulsory institutional care.

The government appointed committee, which has been looking into Swedish laws on compulsory institutional care since 2008, proposes that Sweden follows the line of many other western countries in regards to institutional care and psychiatric treatment.

In order for criminals to be convicted and sentenced to prison, suspects would still have to be considered responsible for their own actions.

Those suffering from a mental disorder but considered as responsible for their actions could therefore receive prison sentences, which today is not possible.

However, the proposal adds that it is important even for these to receive psychiatric care in prison at an early stage.

But Mikael Rying, criminologist at the Mid Sweden University (Mittuniversitetet) in Sundsvall, is critical of the proposal.

“It isn’t as if I am for more lenient punishments but it is reasonable these people should be treated in places where there are people with the expertise to deal with them,” he told news agency TT.

According to Rying, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) simply can’t cope with these individuals.

“I have read over 2,000 investigations about lethal violence and I am convinced that dangerous behaviour won’t go away with severe punishment. A large share of these people are mentally ill or have a personality disorder,” he told TT.

“Whichever is the case, these people need to return to society again some day and what should be important for society is how to prevent them from falling back into a criminal behaviour.”

In the 1970s, two out of three murderers wee convicted to psychiatric care. Last year, that number was 13 percent.

“The question is therefore if we really need new legislation at all,” Rying told the paper.

TT/The Local/rm (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

20:26 April 3, 2012 by Abe L
If you just keep these locked up they don't cost the taxpayer more money, they won't require special individual care and do not pose a threat to society due to possible release.

It's cool if you're crazy, but if you commit crimes because you're crazy then you belong behind bars, just like a regular criminal. It's much more important that these kind of people get longer sentences to keep them locked up longer and prolonging of those sentences if they end up committing crimes while imprisoned.
21:02 April 3, 2012 by johan rebel
"I am convinced that dangerous behaviour won't go away with severe punishment"

Yeah, right, but if you keep 'm behind bars, the opportunities for dangerous behavior will be severely restricted.

Scrap the mental care penalty and introduce genuine life without parole.
08:07 April 4, 2012 by jostein
If i destroyed the lives of several people due to personal fallacies of mine, would i really want to walk free as soon as im declared relatively non insane? Or would i be sympathetic to atoning for my crimes?

Sure, its a thorny issue. But sentencing based on the crime and then offering care is the least of alot of evils. Imho. I dont think the swedish "justice" system is there yet. But this at least is a step in the right direction.
11:23 April 4, 2012 by Da Goat
better still "natural selection" should take place for criminal-crazies!

if its broke dump it!
14:08 April 4, 2012 by Puffin
Of course they won't be able to scrap it as the prison service is totally unable to cope with psychiatric problem - they rely on being able to ship people with psychiatric problems to the Forensic psychiatric service to deal with

The strange thing is that forensic patients - on average - serve longer than prisoners

- prisoners in the vast majority of cases have a release date from the start regardless of whether they have been rehabilitated/cured etc - they are just let out

- psychiatric sentences have a condition that there should be a low risk of any reoofending - it is not the hospitals that decide whether a forensic patient is released but the courts
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