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Forms of Treatment

Although the treatment perspective continues to enjoy a strong position within the Swedish system of responses to youth crime, the contents of the treatment provided have changed over time. Studies from the 1980s (Sarnecki 1989) show that a substantial majority of these treatment forms provided were based on psychodynamic (psychoanalytical) models. Today, the psychodynamic approach is very uncommon. The most common treatment approach now involves various forms of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which are focused on helping people find solutions to their problems.

The use of methods based on individual deterrence or harsh punishment (e.g. boot camps) does not exist in Sweden. This does not mean that none of the treatments provided to young people involve physical activity and other forms of challenges. There are cases, for example, where the social services offer youths the opportunity to participate in survival courses, such as sailing trips and other activities. These types of activities were more common a couple of decades ago than they are today, primarily due to criticisms voiced by the media and politicians. The critics felt that these activities could be perceived as rewarding, rather than punishing, involvement in unacceptable behaviour. The goal of treating problems rather than imposing punishments for offending is not broadly supported by the general public.

The most common response to less serious offending among young people is that the individual and his or her parents are required to attend the social services to discuss and explore whether there is a need for more extensive measures. In the majority of cases, no further measures are taken. In those cases where additional measures are implemented, these usually take the form of continued counselling contacts with the social services or with a contact person (or contact family) appointed by the social services (Bra 2002). The more structured measures and placements outside of the home that have been previously described are relatively uncommon.

One subject of considerable discussion in Sweden relates to the fact that there are so many different actors involved in the juvenile system. The social services and the criminal justice system constitute the two actors who bear the primary responsibilities. Problems arise because the tasks of these two actors are somewhat different in addition to the issue of confidentiality regulations. Sweden’s confidentiality legislation (Lag 2009:400) provides extensive restrictions for information sharing between different agencies. The social services are not permitted to provide information on an individual to the police without the individual’s consent. There are also extensive restrictions on the exchange of information between the police, social services, and other important actors involved in prevention work, such as the child psychiatric sector, schools, the substance abuse care sector, the general healthcare sector, the employment service, and those responsible for providing leisure time activities. All these restrictions are viewed as constituting a major obstacle to the chances of improving the effectiveness of crime prevention measures. The majority of these actors have information on a given individual, which regulations prevent from sharing with others.

There are two principles that are in conflict here: the protection of individual integrity and the goal of having effective measures. Both principles are of substantial importance in relation to the perceived legitimacy of the systems involved.

These problems have been a matter of discussion for many decades now (Eriksson and Sarnecki 1979) but a definitive solution has still not been achieved. A few years ago, a governmental inquiry proposed a compromise (SOU 2010:15): that the relevant agencies should cooperate with one another and share information, but only on the condition that the child and the child’s parents (if the child was under the age of 15) have provided consent. This has been described by the government and the responsible agencies as a major success (Wollter et al. 2013).

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