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Special supervisory homes in Sweden : paper presented September 12:th at the 7:th EUSARF Congress 2002 in Trondheim : Revitalising Residential and Foster Care

  • Claes Levin
Publiceringsår: 2006
Språk: Engelska
Publikation/Tidskrift/Serie: Working paper-serien
Volym: 2006
Nummer: 2
Dokumenttyp: Konferensbidrag
Förlag: Lunds universitet : Socialhögskolan


Sweden is the only Scandinavian country that uses closed treatment institutions

based on coercive measures within the child welfare system, on a

large scale, for the education and treatment of young criminal offenders

and drug users. In Sweden there are in 2002 some 30 “homes for specialized

supervision” of varying sizes and degrees of specialization – all run by

a national board of institutional care. The total number of beds is some

650 and, in closed units, 385. My study was carried out during the

1990´s in Råby Youth Home, the oldest correctional institution in Sweden,

started as a House of refuge in 1838. The question guiding my research

was: How are we to understand the paradox that there is widespread

use and acceptance of organizations like reform schools, while they

lack any sign of success in rehabilitating their clients? The empirical material

of the case study consists of observations carried out in one of Råby’s

treatment units, in-depth interviews with the staff and an investigation of

case notes on all youth that were admitted to Råby between 1982 and

1993. Follow-up interviews were made on a representative sample of all

boys and girls that were admitted during the periods of 1985-1987 and

1990-1993. We managed to find and interview 61 out of a possible total

of 95 former residents. We found that almost 80 percent of the young

men and women had committed one or more serious crimes during the

follow-up period, that almost 70 percent had used drugs, other than alcohol,

and some 70 percent of the boys continued with one or more institutional

placements in special supervisory homes or in prison. We also found

that only 30 percent were more or less socially well adjusted at follow up.

The girls were divided 50-50 between the good and bad outcome criteria,

while the boys were divided on a ratio of 20-80.

Incarceration in combination with the loss of freedom and the indeterminate

time of placement were found to be the most fundamental reasons

behind the development of hidden group resistances and adjustment-

strategies among the residents. The official goals, ideologies and

treatment interventions were not experienced as such by the youths –

rather as punishment and confinement. Despite an internationally high

standard of care, i.e. educated and skilled personnel, good economic resources,

high standard of residence, nourishing meals three times a day,

and safe living conditions for the youth, - external and internal processes

seem to produce further criminalisation and drug addiction and difficulties

in rehabilitating the youths to normal life. The reform school as a

treatment organisation seems to be in conflict with itself as a social institution.


  • Social Work


  • ISSN: 1650-8971

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