Exploring Forensic Psych in Sweden

Wow, where to even begin!? Last week our class went to Gothenburg, Sweden for our core course week, where we visited three different institutions relating to forensic research, legal matters, and treatment of criminals. Over the course of two days, we visited a university, a psychiatric ward, and a half-way house. Each site offered a unique perspective on forensic psychology within Sweden, and the entire week proved to be very rewarding academically and socially as a class.

Criminal, Legal, and Investigative Psychology (CLIP):

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For our first visit, we met with researchers from the Department of Psychology at Gothenburg University, specifically people from the research unit for Criminal, Legal, and Investigative Psychology (CLIP).

Here is a chart summarizing what areas they study:

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Overall, we discussed the difficulty of lie detection, the unreliability of witness memory, perception concerning rape victims, and patterns of behavior that may or may not aid in crime prevention. If you would like to hear more about what we discussed in any of these areas, feel free to ask!

Brace yourself...

Rättsmedicinalverket RMV Rättspsykiatriska avdelningen:

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The only photo allowed

For our second visit, we were required to bring our passports and were not allowed to take photos on the inside. (Serious stuff!) Here we met with two psychologists inside the psychiatric facility, who gave us the history of the National Board of Forensic Medicine, and gave an overview of the process that criminals go through to assess whether or not they belong in a prison or a facility due to any severe mental disorders.

So just a quick lesson to make up for lack of pictures:

The Board was formed in 1991 to ensure consistency in assessment of criminals’ psychological conditions. Today there are about 600 employees in the country. The different departments include: Forensic Psychiatry (assessment), Forensic Medicine (autopsies and documenting injuries), Forensic Toxicology (poisoning or substance involvement), and Forensic Genetics (paternity tests).

Sweden believes that if someone has a severe mental disorder, then they should not be placed in a prison, but rather placed into psychiatric care for treatment. The issues that we discussed are: the lack of options for criminals that cannot be categorized with a severe mental disorder, but need treatment nonetheless; and the difficulties in aiding those who need treatment but do not want it, and would rather spend a certain amount of time in prison, rather than an indefinite amount of time in a facility.

Overall, we were told that the facility tends to have a friendly community amongst the patients and staff who work as a team to address each need. The team consists of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, a nurse, and administrative staff. One scenario that they described was on game days where patients and staff will be seated closely around the TV, watching in anticipation. The presenters described their work to us as exciting in the sense that while patterns exist, there is still a lot of variability with each individual in their behavior and needs. Again, feel free to ask questions!

Halvvägshuset Göteborg:

“hal-veggs-hoo-set” Gothenburg aka Half-way house 

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Showing the back

Oftentimes, people who have been in prison have difficulty easing back into society after finishing their sentence. This half-way house is one of three in Sweden, each occupying a major city. Men are allowed to live here to finish out their sentence while receiving security and aid in finding a job. One goal is to create an environment where these men have autonomy, one privilege they did not have in prison.

Although, there are rules:

  • Curfew: They must be back by 10pm unless they have permission. If someone leaves, they will not be physically stopped. The house caretaker will simply inform the police, and if there are multiple misdemeanors, the person will likely have to finish their sentence in prison.
  • Drug tests: They must be clean, or they will not be allowed to live in the house anymore.
  • No overnight guests.

The men do, however, receive hours each month for free time that allows them to be gone for a couple days, say to visit family, for instance.

Overall, the half-way house approach is based on respect: respecting each other’s privacy in not asking or telling what crimes one has committed, and regaining self-respect in taking on responsibilities such as jobs, cooking for oneself, etc. Once their sentence is fulfilled, an occupant must move out of the building, however they still can receive aid if necessary (job searching for example).

 

A glimpse into the house:

 

More DIS activities from the week:

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Gothenburg Boat Tour!
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Bowling as a class!

Now a museum and hotel, we visited the Långholmen Central Prison in Stockholm.

Final thoughts:

Our core course week was one of my favorite weeks with DIS thus far. I feel that we really learned a lot outside of the classroom and bonded as a group. The opportunities we had were very unique, and we were still given plenty of downtime to explore on our own or relax. (Monday night in Gothenburg I found a swing dance community, much to my delight! *Gleeful smile*.) And Tuesday night in Gothenburg I got take-out sushi, candy, and a beer with some friends, of which we brought back to our room and watched a movie. And finally, a shining moment as a class was on Friday, when a group of us were dancing to Fitness Marshall on YouTube during break, and our professor having seen us, decided to have the whole class participate before reconvening. She actually danced with us! If you’d like to learn the choreography that we did as a class, watch Cheap Thrills.

Though this was a longer post, I hope you enjoyed it! Stayed tuned for more!

-Liz

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