- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 12, 2014

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - State senators said Wednesday that they are revising legislation originally designed to reopen the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said the bill is being amended and would instead simply require the state to establish a facility for delinquent girls. According to Bolkcom, the amended bill, which got preliminary approval from a Senate subcommittee Wednesday, will not specify where that facility should be.

“I think there is agreement that the state needs to have a facility for delinquent girls,” Bolkcom said. “At this point we want to get the program right, and we want to get the details around what we’re going to do moving forward.”

Gov. Terry Branstad closed the Iowa Juvenile Home on Jan. 15 following allegations that teens were improperly treated and denied a proper education. The home housed some of Iowa’s most troubled girls. The treatment of children at the center in Toledo came to light after an investigation by the advocacy group Disability Rights Iowa and stories by The Des Moines Register. They reported that physical restraints were used on children and that staffers relied on isolation cells.

Of the 21 girls who had been living at the home, six have been sent home, two placed in detention centers for delinquent youth and the others were moved into a mix of public and private facilities around the state, a DHS spokeswoman has said.

The closing has prompted a legal tug-of-war. Four Democratic lawmakers also joined with the head of the state employees’ union in filing a lawsuit against Branstad and Department of Human Services Director Chuck Palmer, seeking to keep the home open. A district judge recently ruled in their favor, but Branstad has appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Sen. Jack Hatch, D-Des Moines, one of the lawmakers who filed the suit, said that effort will continue. He said Branstad did not have the authority to close a facility that the Legislature had allocated money toward. But he said he supported the revised legislation.

“It speaks the main position that we should have a separate facility for delinquent girls,” Hatch said.

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