Youngsters in state care held indoors: report

Young people in Sweden’s special state homes for troubled youth are often kept locked indoors for weeks with no access to fresh air.

Sveriges Radio’s investigative news programme Kaliber reports that youngsters in institutional care have fewer rights in this regard than serious criminals in the country’s jails.

Kaliber met with a number of young people who have spent time in special state homes reserved for children and young adults with serious psychosocial problems.

An examination of one girl’s case book revealed that she had gone five weeks without spending any time outdoors.

Another girl spoke of how she had started smoking while being treated at a home just to get access to a small balcony enclosed with bars.

A third girl cut her arms so badly that she required emergency medical care.

“I knew I’d get to come out if I cut myself deep enough to need stitches,” she told Kaliber.

Adults in Sweden’s jails have the right to spend at least one hour per day outdoors, but no such regulations exist for youngsters interned at the special approved homes for young people.

In response to the report, the National Board of Institutional Care (Staten institutionsstyrelse – SiS) said preventing youngsters from spending time outside can be necessary in certain cases.

In a statement release on Sunday morning, the board stressed that many of the young people placed in special homes have lived in chaotic environments characterized by substance abuse, criminality and violence. Many of them suffer from serious psychological problems and neuropsychiatric disorders and can pose a threat to themselves or others.

“Treating these youngsters alone for a certain period, and enabling them to only spend time with staff in a calm environment […] is beneficial to their treatment,” according to the statement.

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