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'Torture-like' conditions for kids in Swedish jails

19 Mar 2013, 18:08

Published: 19 Mar 2013 18:08 GMT+01:00

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"Our in-depth analysis shows that children are routinely isolated while under arrest or being held on remand and are held shielded from social human contact for 22 or more of a day's 24 hours," Fredrik Malmberg, Sweden's Ombudsman for Children (Barnombudsmannen) told the TT news agency.

Malmberg, who on Tuesday presented a report to the government detailing conditions facing children held on remand, said he was upset that prosecutors often decide to keep children longer than the standard six hours.

According to current rules, suspects aged 15-17 must be released after six hours unless a prosecutor decides otherwise.

Following a decision to hold a young suspect longer than six hours, a prosecutor then has three days before a prosecutor must file a new motion to extend the detention.

By noon on the third day following an arrest, prosecutors must decide whether they will file a remand order. By the fourth day, a court is required to rule on the motion, at which point the suspect can be released or moved to a remand centre.

According to figures from the ombudsman's investigation, children were held under arrest on at least 3,118 occasions in 2011, although it's unclear how many of the cases resulted in further detention.

However, about 4 percent, 122 cases, resulted in court-ordered remand.

Malmberg explained that holding children in isolation for such extended periods is a form of torture according to the United Nations definition.

"I've met children who mention suicidal thoughts, that they don't recognize themselves and lose their grip on reality," he said.

"Isolation has serious health effects and research shows that children can suffer from lasting damage after just a few days."

Justice Minister Beatrice Ask emphasized the importance of being selective when deciding to hold children on remand, but that doing so is sometimes unavoidable.

"It's a problem that we have so many youngsters that are suspected of such serious crimes and that there may be others who have acted together," she told TT.

"Clearly it's important that they not speak to one another or in other ways undermine our chances of figuring out what's happened and investigating serious crimes. That's the main problem."

In his report, Malmberg looked at 108 out of 122 cases in which children were held on remand in 2011 on suspicions of having committed serious crimes.

In 91 cases, the children were slapped with special restrictions which limited their contact with others, including their parents, for several days.

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Malmberg criticized the fact that in many cases remand orders for the children lacked reasons for why the special restrictions were used.

He also slammed Sweden's courts for not being clear about the reasons required as the basis for holding someone between 15- and 17-years-old on remand.

According to Malmberg, Sweden should follow Norway's model and prohibit the practice of holding minors in isolation in the country's jails and remand centres.

TT/The Local/dl

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Your comments about this article

19:25 March 19, 2013 by johan rebel
Here's an idea: don't commit serious crimes, whatever your age, and you won't end up incarcerated.
23:04 March 19, 2013 by Swedish Meatbulls
Must agree with Johan rebel Maybe its better to frighten these so call 16 year old children now and hopefully they'll learn a very important lesson if you do the crime then do the time.! Anyone said any thing about the victims of these youths???
07:34 March 20, 2013 by RobinHood
@ Johan and Meatballs

To be under arrest and/or held on remand means these children have not been convicted of a crime. They are held by the state pending an investigation and/or trial at which they may be found guilty or innocent. It is only after a conviction that the state, or even you, may regard them as criminals.
08:54 March 20, 2013 by johan rebel
Something tells me that many, probably most of these "children" have priors. That makes them recidivists and criminals by definition.

And, by the way, there are far too many criminals out there who have never been convicted. Doesn't make 'm any less criminal.
09:49 March 20, 2013 by grainofsand
not being convicted is exactly what makes you not a criminal @johan rebel. that's just a silly thing to say. but it seems you as well as @swedish meatballs have made up your mind about who does and does not deserve human rights. i pray to god that neither of you are any position of power over other people because attitudes like yours are not what the judicial system or society for that matter should be about.

how's about rehabilitating these youths making a prison a place where they learn tools to function better in society, nurture these kids so they won't come out of the jails hardened and better criminals when they went in. and considering this article is about kids held on remand and not even criminals. the police should be taking into account that the way they treat these minors will affect the way they will perceive "the law" later on in life, so why not act in a way that leaves these kids have respect and a healthy fear of "the law" instead of seeing it as an oppressive abusive force.
15:53 March 20, 2013 by herpsel
This kind of thinking...condemning people when only suspected of a crime is crooked thinking. It is part of what keeps the justice system from making criminals into decent emotionally healthy individuals which is what a true justice system should be all about. Unfortunately most justice systems are only about getting more and more money. Incarceration is not the answer, rehabilitation is. All prisons should be more like college where they can learn how to contribute to society in a productive way and have the self worth that comes with that. When police and anyone who is a part of the correctional system treat criminals negatively it only creates a greater divide of hostility between them. I can say this because I have been both a prisoner and a policeman and I have experienced both sides. The answer is not punishment....rather it is teaching and showing and loveing those individuals how to behave and healing their emotional wounds so they too can find happiness living peacefully with their fellow Swedes. I live in The United States of America and plan on moving to Sweden soon to work and to help improve all that I can in Sweden. I plan on creating an institute that will give these kinds of services to all in Sweden. My Grandparents came from Sweden and I will be returning to my roots. To me, Sweden is an awesome and wonderful place and it does have it's problems. I would very much like to help Sweden to not become like the United States is quickly becoming. Our government wants to kill us and make us all mindless slaves. I value freedom and self determination and all that goes with it. Sweden still has much freedom and goodness in it and I desire to be a contributing part of that.

15:53 May 31, 2013 by MichaelZWilliamson
I wonder if they'd be safer in contact with other detainees? Solitary may be in their best interests.
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