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Alarming Increase in Swedish Youth Jail Populations

You won’t believe what’s happening in Swedish Jails

Hey, have you heard about what’s happening in Swedish jails lately? It’s quite shocking – a record number of children under 18 have been held in remand with restrictions this year. There were 69 in August! Five times more than we had three years ago.

Kids in Jail

And when you look at the age group 18-20, the numbers are twice as much! Nothing like this has ever happened before. The jails and prisons across Sweden are filled like never before. And a striking chunk of the inmates are under 20.

In August, 399 individuals were being held. 330 of these were aged between 18 and 20, and 69 were between 15 and 17. Compare this to the mere 198 and 13 respectively, in these age groups, three years ago in 2020.

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The situation is extremely troubling, according to Stefan Creutz, Deputy Chief Prosecutor at the Southern Prosecution Chamber in Stockholm. On the day he was asked, his chamber was conducting preliminary investigations against 27 children under 18 who were in custody.

Spreading the Load

These juveniles are scattered across the three different detention centres in Stockholm. This is an effort to distribute the burden that comes with having such young people in custody.

It is also to ensure that they are placed in detention centres suitable for them, considering both their safety and investigative reasons. Many of these young people, unfortunately, have connections to various criminal networks and possibly enemies, affecting their security situation.

These children, held in custody, are by definition suspected of severe crime. A large majority have restrictions, limiting their contact with the outside world. Essentially, they’re isolated for most of their time in custody.

Breaking the Isolation

For over a year now, those in custody under 21 have the right to four hours of isolation-breaking activities involving human contact. This could be a conversation, a game, or some physical activity with a staff member.

Regrettably, it’s impossible for us to offer these young detainees their right to four hours of human contact per day. The situation has made time in jail tougher and more challenging for everyone,” says Christoffer Lidebrandt, a Prison Inspector in Sollentuna.

The increase in young detainees has caused a significant increase in workload for the Criminal Care Service. It has also highlighted that existing facilities are neither tailored nor sufficient for these young inmates. Visiting rooms have been taken into use as they run out of space, inhibiting the inmates’ ability to receive visitors.

A Silver Lining?

Anna Fromm, the chief at Kronoberg jail, points out an aspect that might give us a silver lining. Being locked up is, of course, a massive change for these young inmates. For some, the monotony might be the wake-up call they need, making them reflect on their situation.

“Many also find it calming to be here. They don’t need to watch their backs here,” tells From.

The current situation is distressing, however. Rules require four hours of human interaction, but in Kronoberg, they only managed to meet this requirement for 64% of cases.

The rising violence against employees in Swedish prisons is another element to reflect on in this situation. Could these new trends be sounding alarms for us as a community and the authorities responsible?

We’ll need to wait and see. In the meantime, sympathy goes to these young people whose lives have taken such a turn and the dedicated public servants dealing with this incredibly complex situation. Let’s hope it gets better sooner.

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