18th October 2004

The Swedish Prison and Probation Service issued a series of orders on September 15 in response to a Spring 2004 report on prisoners’ children released by the Children’s Ombudsman. The report, entitled “Do not punish the children,” maintained that conditions for children with incarcerated parents in Sweden were unacceptable in many ways and that little progress had been made since the 1998 Prison and Probation Service report.

The Ombudsman report suggested a series of changes:

  • Prison staff should inquire of all prisoners if they have children, and take this into account when working with the mother/father. Statistics about children should be systematized on a national level.
  • Improve visits facilities within the prison (visits apartments, playground areas, etc.).
  • Take into account the child’s perspective and needs when there are special restrictions.
  • Foster a positive parent-child relationship and introduce the child’s perspective into the daily work in prisons.
  • Social services should pay for travel costs when children visit parents in prison.
  • Modify the law to allow parents special leave to visit children.
  • Parent education should be available in all prisons.
  • In response, the Swedish Prison and Probation Service ordered the following for all prisons in Sweden :
  • Special leave will be granted for important events concerning children.
  • Children should be allowed to telephone and speak directly to the parent. (In the past, children could only leave a message and ask the parent to call back, which frequently occurred several hours later.)
  • Each new prisoner should be asked about his/her children*.
  • Flexible visiting hours for children need to be provided.

*Statistics are not systematized on a national level yet in Sweden . The purpose of asking is to make staff aware of parents’ and children’s needs and to bring this awareness into the treatment of the prisoner.

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Author: rmchristen