A Week Inside the Minds of Swedish Criminals

When I initially signed up for DIS, I was mostly drawn to the opportunity to immerse myself in the Swedish ways and explore Scandinavia along with the rest of Europe. Never did it cross my mind that I would be spending time exploring a psychiatric ward for dangerous criminals in Sweden! This was one of my favorite experiences from last week – Core Course Week. For those of you who don’t know, Forensic Psychology is my core class here in Stockholm. While I am actually an Economics major back at Stanford, I have loved getting to explore different types of classes that are completely new to me and in areas I have always been fascinated with, despite never having the opportunity to study them in school. That’s why I am so excited to be learning lots of Swedish, but also taking classes like Forensic Psych and Terrorism & Anti-Terrorism!

Walking through the beautiful streets of Gothenburg
Anyways, back to the psyc ward…

Our Forensic Psychology class traveled to Gothenburg for 3 days together (Check out Liz’s blog for more about some of the other fun stuff we did in Gothenburg!) to explore different institutions relating to the fields of forensic psychology. My favorite visit was to the Rättsmedicinalverket (and here I am, having a hard time pronouncing kräftskiva). It was very intense — we needed our passports to get in, and were not allowed to take any pictures inside the facility. This is one of the national centers in Sweden where convicted criminals are sent to be evaluated on whether or not they are mentally fit to serve their sentence in a prison or in a mental healthcare facility.

As a self-proclaimed addict to all crime and legal stories – think Law & Order SVU, Forensic Files, Crime novels, Snapped, CSI, etc. – I especially loved getting to hear one of the psychologists talk about a specific case she was once assigned to, and listening to her analysis of what was going on inside of the criminal’s mind. It is so cool to look at these stories from a different perspective now that we have had a month of class under our belts — I had no idea there were so many theories and studies done on criminology and victimology.

A really interesting thing that I noticed during this visit in particular was that in Sweden, they don’t have the same “not guilty by reason of insanity” defense that we have in America. Instead, a criminal is found to be guilty or not, and then is assessed to see whether they have a severe mental illness that would result in them spending time in a psychiatric facility instead of the prison system. I found this to be one of the most fascinating  aspects of the study tour as a whole – comparing the very-familiar American legal and justice system to that in Sweden.

Gothenburg Halvvägshuset

Aside from the academic visits to a criminology research unit, a halfway-house, an old prison-turned-museum and of course the psychiatric ward, we also got to spend time having class dinners and adventures with our fellow classmates, and Meiling, our teacher! It is such

Language of Thieves – Part of the exhibits in the Långholmen Prison Museum

a fun experience to actually get to know your teacher as a person outside of the classroom. Sure, we spent some time discussing our different visits over dinner, but we also got to talk to Meiling about her life and her family. I think we all came away from the tour with a new appreciation for each other and for our class (cheesy but true!). We also got lots of insider-tips from Meiling about the best places to go and things to do in Gothenburg, her hometown!

Our whole class, including Meiling and Tilde (our teachers and our guides), on a boat tour of Gothenburg
Thankfully, they let us out of the psychiatric ward so that we could head back to Stockholm and continue on with our adventures.

Much love from Sweden,
Ab – “criminology in Sweden is SO COOL” – by

PS I have to throw in this picture (for my fellow foodies) of this dope sushi we got one night when me and some friends were exploring Gothenburg on our own! Tack, Molly, for this suggestion

An incredibly satisfying platter of sushi

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