Emil Häggbom and Pasi Winsten, members of the Young X-cons organization in Stockholm. Both were detained at 17 years old Photo: Marcus Eriksson / Swedish Radio.

Ombudsman: Youth held in custody for too long

More and more young people between 15 and 17-years-old are being detained and isolated in small cells for long periods of time while awaiting trial. The Ombudsman for Children in Sweden, Fredrik Malmberg, is calling for a new legislation to change this. 

Malmberg tells Swedish Radio News that the current law states that long waiting times for trials must be avoided as much as possible, however, he says it is not working.

In a report Malmberg delivered to the government Tuesday, he states that more information about detained children is needed. He says jail staff need to be better informed about the particular situation that children face while in custody, and he also complains that the statistics on how frequently teenagers are detained are inadequate.

Pasi Winsten of Stockholm, was arrested when he was 17, on suspicion of arson.

“Ten minutes inside feels like an hour if not more. You become completely crazy in there,” Winsten says.

At 23 now, he says it is hard to explain how it feels to be detained and isolated in a few square meters. It took two days before he was cleared of the allegations. “You should be able to get out and do something, anything, play tennis or go for a walk. I think it is a too young an age to be held in custody like that.”

The Ombudsman’s survey of all police indicate that children were detained more than 3,100 times in 2011, with comparative figures missing.

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