Children face isolation in Danish prisons

Practice can lead to severe psychological trauma

Children and youngsters aged 15-18 can be placed in isolation in Danish prisons and that's exactly what has happened 158 times over the past five years, according to the Danish prison and probation service Kriminalforsorgen.

Some of the children were put in isolation for up to two weeks – something the children's advocacy organisation Børnerådet and the Danish Institute for Human Rights find deplorable.

“We can't condone the isolation of children as young as 15 being locked away in isolation for weeks at a time,” Per Larsen, the head of Børnerådet, said in a press release.

“It goes against the children’s convention and the Committee on the Rights of the Child's clear recommendations.”

READ MORE: Government helps out children of alcoholics

Can leave psychological scars
The rules concerning two weeks of isolation only affect children who are remanded or serving in Danish prisons. When they are in closed institutions, the maximum isolation time is only two to four hours.

Larsen contended the rules should be the same whether the child is in prison or in an institution and has sent an open letter to the justice minister, Karen Hækkerup, appealing to her to make the change.

According to human and children rights organisations, research has shown that being kept in isolation can have severe psychological ramifications, particularly for young people, which can lead to the children developing angst, depression, self-harming behaviour and aggressive behaviour.