Employees of the Government Agency for Child Protection accuse Minister of Social Affairs Eygló Harðardóttir for systematically excluding them from the development of child protection policies in Iceland and criticize her for going against their wishes by renewing an ISK 500 million (USD 4.2 million, EUR 3.3 million) contract with Háholt, a treatment home for troubled teenagers in Skagafjörður, North Iceland.
The agency’s employees believe that the state’s funds should instead be used for establishing new specialized treatment facilities for teenagers, who have been convicted of criminal activities, in the capital region.
Currently, there is room for three 15-18-year-olds at Háholt. The treatment home has 11 employees in addition to a part-time teacher and psychologist. Few people take advantage of the facilities at Háholt—sometimes no one resides there for weeks, visir.is reports.
Ruv.is writes that only six teenagers have served their suspended prison sentences at Háholt since 1998. The longest sentence was approximately a year and a half.
However, some of the individuals have resided there on more than one occasion—teenagers are also brought there while they’re in custody.
Since 1998, 12 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 have been convicted for criminal activities in Iceland. The six individuals who didn’t serve their sentences at Háholt were brought to other treatment homes run by the Agency for Child Protection.
In the past summer, changes were made to the facilities at Háholt so that the home would fulfill conditions as a security prison facility for teenagers.
Eygló dismisses the criticism by saying that everyone interested in participating in the development of child protection policies in Iceland have had the opportunity to do so.
The minister explained to ruv.is that a teenage prison doesn’t currently exist in Iceland. The changes to the facilities at Háholt were made to fulfill the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, where it says that teenagers convicted of criminal activities should be able to choose between a prison and a treatment home to serve their sentences.
Eygló added that Háholt’s 15 years of operation have proven successful and that it is positive that not many teenagers are in need for its services as only few teenagers are convicted for criminal activities in Iceland.