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EU anti-torture body blasts Swedish jails

TT/Paul O'Mahony · 4 Aug 2009, 11:14

Published: 04 Aug 2009 11:14 GMT+02:00

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In its preliminary observations following a visit to Sweden in June, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) found that Sweden had not taken sufficient action to meet recommendations made by the committee during its last visit in 2003.

In a statement issued by the committee's Second Vice-President Pétur Hauksson, CPT said the action taken by Sweden "still fails to meet the Committee’s concerns (in particular, in the areas of legal safeguards against ill-treatment of persons in police custody, the imposition of restrictions on remand prisoners, the isolation of certain categories of sentenced prisoners, and the holding of immigration detainees in prisons)."

The committee stressed that Sweden must do more to limit the time spent by prisoners in isolation and slammed the "quasi-systematic" imposition of restrictions for remand prisoners, which led to periods of 6 to 18 months in isolation.

CPT commended officials in Gothenburg for taking steps to improve conditions but added that they were still far from meeting new targets, which in any case were deemed insufficient.

The committee detailed the deleterious effects of isolation, which have let to thirty suicide attempts at Gothenburg Remand Prison in the first six months of this year.

"Significant periods of isolation induce disorientation in time, memory disturbance, and deterioration in communication skills, to name but three serious effects. Further, symptoms of anxiety disorder are commonly seen, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression develop, and there is agitation, self harm and a risk of suicide.

"The fact that juveniles as young as 15 are being subjected to restrictions akin to isolation is of particular concern to us."

The acting head of the national prison service's western division, Christer Krohn, confirmed that there has been a "large increase" in the number of suicide attempts at Gothenburg Remand Prison, a development that could be partially explained by isolation practices.

"We notice that those being held are in a worse mental condition now," he told newspaper Göteborgs-Posten.

Gothenburg prosecutor Mats Eriksson told the newspaper that he welcomed the committee's report but added that he did not believe restrictions were more common in Gothenburg than at other remand prisons.

Prosecutors are authorized to request restrictions on remand prisoners if there is deemed to be a risk that they will jeopardize an investigation through contact with mass media or individuals close to the crime of which they are accused.

"As prosecutors we are tasked with investigating crimes. And it often happens that remand prisoners make contact with witnesses or victims, causing them to pull out. This is why it is necessary for them to face restrictions," he said.

The preliminary findings from the CPT come a year after a report from the United Nations Committee against Torture also directed strong criticism against Sweden for the conditions in its remand prisons. The UN report argued that cut backs within the prisons service have created security risks for both staff and inmates.

CPT found that staff cuts at Hall and Kumla high security prisons, as well as the Gothenburg remand prison, had led to reduced access to toilets and the provision of assistance, particularly at night. Low staff levels could constitute a risk for both staff and prisoners, the committee said.

Story continues below…

The committee found that conditions for prisoners at Hall and Kumla were generally of a high standard, but noted that troublesome prisoners were held in isolation for over a year in some cases.

"The regime offered to such inmates at Hall and Kumla Prisons was extremely impoverished (out-of-cell time being limited to one hour of outdoor exercise per day, which was taken alone)."

The committee also recommended improvements to procedures used by police establishments, Migration Board detention centres, psychiatric establishments and a home for young people.

A full report is to be presented by CPT to the Swedish government in November and will take into account the responses of the Swedish authorities to the committee's preliminary findings.

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TT/Paul O'Mahony (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

12:38 August 4, 2009 by magic1964
EU is full of useless wellpaid politicians who have to justify their useless positions and salaries....
12:47 August 4, 2009 by Nemesis
Sweden needs to put more people in jail.

There is far to much criminal activity in Sweden. It needs to be tackled head on by the authorities.

Sweden is a beautiful and wonderful country. On average most things in Sweden are better than other countries. In the last 20 years it has been slowly degrading due to political incompetness.

The police, judicary, legal system and political system need to be overhauled in Sweden as they are the real problems in Sweden.
13:07 August 4, 2009 by bubbagump
It's unfortunate that a commission like this would choose Sweden as a prison system problem child . It really invalidates their findings in other portions of the world where conditions may very well include "torture".

On a personal note, if it's between isolation or a rape me in the ass roommate named Magnus "The Hammer" Magnusson , I'll take isolation.

Think of it as a work cubicle and Dilbert is in the one across from you. You don't see him, but you know he's there. Not much different from a normal day, except you have to stay in isolation at your job until you are 65. In prison, you've got to wait a max 10 years. You can do that easy as long as you have your swingline stapler. I bet you even get fika at 10 and 1500 if you act nice.
15:20 August 4, 2009 by refugee
Yes that is true !!!!!!!!!! no one knows more than me about this issue since they have tried to paralized me ,but manage to escape... Silent killers!!
15:31 August 4, 2009 by Texrusso
I am surprise this warning is coming to Sweden rather than the next door neighbour Finland. Finland has the worst prison system in western europe. In Finland, prison security is monopolized by the government so is the food service and no one really cares for quality of service. In Sweden the Food service is privatized, prisoners gets better food, Prisoners are also better treated in Sweden, at least there basic humanity respected. The Judicial and Prison System in Finland is run like a dictatorship and anarchy. The Finnish police are the worst racist and human abusers of all. They will abuse and molest your humanity even at nothing. Too much powers handed to a group of hooligans in uniform. The Finnish Judicial system is a Mafia system, they can always do what they want, hold you whenever they want and keep you as long as they want, they will always find one clause in the law or manipulate the legal system in one way or the other to abuse your rights.
16:54 August 4, 2009 by Harding00
Sure they're in isolation, but I would bet they have tv, video games, great food, and of course the fika breaks that bubbagump stated. And did it occur to the EU that there a quite a few people who should be in isolation, maybe a lot more than there is, because they can't live well with others...oh, wait, all people in jail are there in the first place because they can't live well with the rest of humanity, that's why they stole, raped, killed, etc...maybe all criminals should be put in isolation...without TV's, video games, and good food.
16:58 August 4, 2009 by vladd777
Having correspondence with lifers in the USA lets me agree with bubbagump..

"On a personal note, if it's between isolation or a rape me in the ass roommate named Magnus "The Hammer" Magnusson , I'll take isolation."..

Plus the fact that one is constantly in danger of being stabbed to death out in general population.
17:05 August 4, 2009 by Texrusso
All of those in detention are just waiting trail. By law it is innocent until proven guilty. I think most of you are getting it wrong. Subjects held in detention and or isolation according to prosecutor are reasons of possible evation of justice and or distorting the investigation. However, One thing you have to know is that over 50% of everyone held in custody are innocent and are just under investigation and therefore should not confirm anyone to such situation were they commit sucide. People the Judicial system can be harsh sometimes! Not all held in custody are rapist or murderers. Please becareful.
01:11 August 5, 2009 by dtes
if they cant afford decent conditions they shouldnt be taking prisoners. isolation is torture and it is not a good thing to torture a person, specially when later on in life you know you have to share life with that person in the free world. LETS TRY TO MAKE THE WORLD A BETTER PLACE FOR THE FUTURE NOT A WORSE PLACE!!!!
06:44 August 5, 2009 by Harding00
So, are these people thrown in isolation right away, or are they put into isolation after they have gotten out of control. If someone is in jail after being convicted, or in jail awaiting trial and they act out of control, slam their @ss into isolation for a few days. If they still can't behave, throw them back in. If I were accused of a crime and put in jail while waiting for my trial I would make sure I acted the best I ever had, because 1) I am not the kind of person to get out of control, 2) I know that how I act in jail will have an effect on what the judges think of me, and 3) because I don't want to end up in isolation. I highly doubt (and maybe I am wrong) that Swedish jail personnel are just willy-nilly throwing people in isolation. But I want to know what they mean by isolation. Do they mean a small room, with a door without windows. Or do they mean a normal jail cell that you don't have to share with a rapist, but can still see others across from you, etc?
09:44 August 5, 2009 by George C
What a load of bullshit ..... Swedish Prisons = six "Star Hotel with extras !!!!

Just look at the rediculous short sentences handed down by the courts to criminals.

Maybe we should give them their own key .... to come and go
16:05 August 5, 2009 by Texrusso
Harding00, this is for you: If you are placed in isolation pending investigation, it means that you are not allowed to talk to or see anyone except your lawyer pending the outcome of the investigation. Sometimes, your kids may be allowed to visit you with supervision to make sure you do not share or relate any information concerning the case. You are not even allowed to see or talk to your wife. This means that you are locked up in a cell with no access to the outside World. You can only speak to your lawyer or Prison Guards if you need something. Please note that sometimes these investigations last more than six months regardless of your innocense. In these eventuallities, a person held in custody must be treated in every possible humane way as it is always innocent until proven guilty. The reason for this isolation is not based on your conduct or behavior while in custody but a request by the prosecutor claiming your exposure to others would jeopardize the investigations.
06:55 August 7, 2009 by FriendofPatti's
Nemesis - I disagree. Though you probably know more about the country than I do, I was a tourist in Stockholm for one month. Not a single bad thing happened to me, not even a frown by anyone - nor was anybody rude to me. In fact, once I hopped upon a bus to visit another museum & the bus driver, recognizing I was a tourist, not speaking Swedish nor understanding the Kronar very well - let me ride for free! Even the bus drivers are cool in Sweden. I love it there. However, i couldn't compete with the gorgeous women - they're tall and blonde. I am short and brunette - I figured all the eligible bachelors would pass me over for them. And they did. I still love Sweden though. Patti
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