Two teenage girls aged 14 and 15 were temporarily held in a prison cell earlier this week because authorities say there was no room for them in an emergency rehab facility for young people with drug addiction issues, Vísir reports. This is the first time that such an incident has occurred, but Salvör Nordal, Iceland’s Ombudsman for Children, says that her office will be investigating the matter further.
“It’s naturally a very serious issue if minors are being placed in a jail cell,” she said. “We’re going to ask for an explanation of why this happened...and will then determine whether we need to take further action on the matter.”
In an interview on Wednesday, Chief Inspector Guðmundur Fylkisson of the Reykjavík police department criticized the lack of resources available in such situations. In general, he said, when teenage drug users are picked up by police and in need of immediate intervention or care, they are taken to an emergency rehab facility for young people to prevent them from doing themselves further harm. However, there is not always space in the current facility, meaning that teenagers in dire need of assistance often have to be waitlisted.
“...Emergency care is a last resort, and there’s a waitlist,” Guðmundur said. “Again and again, I pick up kids who’ve run away from home and who are shooting up. I take them home, there aren’t any resources for them, they take off again, I find them, and it goes on and on like that until there’s an opening.”