The law and international recommendations require that minors in prison are kept separate from adults. According to observations made during prison visits of the Parliamentary Ombudsman, this does not happen. Prisons do not have suitable facilities for accommodating minors that are separate from adults.
There are very few underaged and remand prisoners, usually only 5-10 at the same time in the whole Finland. Although a minor must be accommodated separately, it may be in their best interest to arrange activities together with adult prisoners so that the underaged prisoner does not have to be completely without social contacts. However, in this case activities must be sufficiently supervised.
After the Deputy-Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen started investigating the matter, the Criminal Sanctions Agency took several measures. A report on underaged prisoners was prepared. In addition, a decision was made to create prisons with a ward for minors. Some of the planned measures have been implemented and others are still in progress. The Deputy-Ombudsman stated that he has no reason to take action since the Criminal Sanctions Agency has started to remedy the situation.
However, the Deputy-Ombudsman found problems regarding underaged remand prisoners as well as underaged prisoners who would be suitable for open institutions. According to the Criminal Sanctions Agency, minors cannot be kept separate from adult prisoners in open institutions. In addition, supervision in open institutions is considerably lower than in a closed prison. For remand prisoners, the prison where they are placed may not always have facilities for minors. The Deputy-Ombudsman asked the Ministry of Justice and the Criminal Sanctions Agency to report their views and possible actions concerning these problems.
In addition, the Deputy-Ombudsman announced that he would start investigating the opportunities that minors in prison have to attend school and to study, as the information he received about this was worrying.
Deputy-Ombudsman Pasi Pölönen's decision no 4760/2020 has been published (in Finnish) on the Parliamentary Ombudsman's website at www.oikeusasiamies.fi/en/
Further information is available from Principal Legal Adviser Anu Rita, tel. +358 9 432 3362.