Iowa Senate committee approves bill for state-run juvenile home for girls

Bill now goes to the Senate floor for debate

Published: February 19 2014 | 4:30 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 3:53 am in

DES MOINES – A split Iowa Senate committee approved legislation that would establish a state-run facility for delinquent girls. However, attempts by lawmakers to “depoliticize” the debate crumbled at a measure one Republican says could lead to the re-opening of the Toledo Iowa Juvenile Home closed by the governor.

The Senate Human Resources Committee approved the bill calling for a state-run facility on a party-line vote with eight Democrats in favor and five Republicans opposed. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for debate.

The bill is a response to Branstad’s decision to close the juvenile home last year following investigations revealed restraints and seclusion was used on girls at the home. An amended version passed calls for a state-run, accredited facility with a proper educational curriculum, trained staff, increased oversight and reports to state lawmakers.

“What’s in this bill needs to be done,” said Sen. William Dotzler, D-Waterloo. “They need to be placed in a proper facility.”

However, Sen. David Johnson, R-Ocheyden, said he couldn't support the amended version and the language implies the Toledo facility could be reopened.

Johnson said more consideration should be placed on costs and continue to work with the Iowa Department of Human Services and Disability Rights Iowa.

“We haven’t put enough emphasis on the transition of these girls into the community rather than see them go into adult corrections,” Johnson said.

A bipartisan decision last week struck the word “Toledo” from Senate File 2084, which originally intended to re-open at the Toledo facility, in what lawmakers said was an attempt to calm the debate.

“Today we lost the good cooperation that we’ve had in this building the last three weeks,”  Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City said after the vote.

He said the amended bill “doesn’t speak a word of location” but instead is about setting up a model treatment program for delinquent girls. Bolkcom said the decision ultimately lies with the governor on where the facility should be and whether it’s public or privately-run.

He said the amended bill “doesn’t speak a word of location” but instead is about setting up a model treatment program for delinquent girls. Bolkcom said the decision ultimately lies with the governor on where the facility should be and whether it’s public or privately-run.

An Iowa District Court Judge ordered two weeks ago the juvenile home be reopened and that Branstad, which the governors has appealed.

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