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Comparison with Adults

Figure 21.5 also presents the distribution of criminal justice sanctions among adults, which are considerably more severe. The proportion of custodial sanctions among 15-17-year-olds is 0.04 % (including youth custody and forensic psychiatric care) and 0.5 %> among 18-20-year-olds, while the corresponding proportion of sanctions imposed on adults over the age of 20 is 11 %>. Day-fines constitute the most common sanction even among adult offenders in Sweden, accounting for a total of 58 %> of conviction decisions. Among the adults, however, it is more common for these fines to have been imposed by courts rather than on the basis of a summary sanction order.

Changes in the Sanctioning System for Young Offenders

A similar review of the sanctions imposed on young offenders was conducted at the end of the 1980s (Sarnecki 1989) based on conviction data from 1987. It is, therefore, possible to compare changes in the sanctions imposed on young offenders over the course of more than 25 years. The justice system, over the course of this period, has undergone a powerful shift towards the tenets of neoclassicism.

To begin, the total number of sanctions imposed on young people has declined considerably. Among 15-17-year-olds, the number of sanctions has declined by 38 %, while for 18-20-year-olds, we see a decline of 41 %>. Looking at the population as a whole, the number of convictions has declined by 28 % over the course of this period. The decline among young people has been greater. At the same time, the size of the Swedish population has increased by approximately 12 % to 9.7 million people (Fig. 21.6).

A shift in the type of sanctions imposed can also be observed. With regard to 15-17-year-olds, the use of prison sentences has ceased almost entirely, although prison sentences in this age group were rare even in 1987. In total, however, the proportion of custodial sanctions has increased somewhat as a result of the introduction of youth custody. The use of youth care sentences has increased among 15-17-year-olds. A considerable number—approximately 1300—of the sanctions imposed on youths in this age group in 2013 involve the use of the new youth service sanction. Although summary sanction orders and waivers of prosecution remain the most common forms of conviction decisions among 15-17-year-olds, the proportion of the total number of convictions accounted for by such decisions has declined considerably over the course of the period examined.

In regard to the 18-20-year-olds, the use of prison sentences has declined somewhat, whereas the use of probationary sentences has increased. Fines constitute the largest category of sanctions, although their use has declined to some extent. There has been a dramatic decrease in the number of fines awarded in the form of summary sanction orders. The number of sanctions involving fines

Figure 21.6. Comparison of convictions in 1987 and 2014. respectively, for youths aged 15-17 and 18-20. Percent. (TV 15-17, 1987= 14,817; N 15-17, 2013 = 9,134; N18-20, 1987 = 20,346; N 18-20, 2013= 12,062).

imposed by the courts has increased, but not sufficiently to match the decline in summary sanction orders.

The general impression is that elements of the treatment perspective have retained a prominent position within the Swedish system of youth sanctions. At the same time, the proportion of conviction decisions made by prosecutors has declined, while the proportion of court convictions has increased. Since the total number of convictions for young people has declined considerably over the course of the period examined, however, there has been no increase in the aggregate number of court convictions involving youths.

 
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