HEAL Does DC!by Angela Smith, HEAL National Coordinator
Tim Brown, HEAL Kentucky (KY) Coordinator and I spent a week lobbying our legislators in Washington, DC in March, 2017. We had scheduled visits with three of our senators and met briefly with our representatives. We presented a packet of legislative suggestions for stopping institutionalized abuse in residential care settings for children, youth, the disabled, and the elderly. You can view the packet here: http://www.healreport.tv/heallegislativerequest.pdf. This packet along with a cover letter was submitted to: Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA), Rep. Rick Larsen (D-WA), Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), and Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY). You can view the slide show presentation featuring Tim Brown (HEAL KY Coordinator) and myself by viewing episode 51 of The HEAL Report available on YouTube at https://youtu.be/zUDSfV6HUeo.
Since our trip, our legislators have introduced or co-sponsored the following bills related to teen liberty:
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) has co-sponsored HR 1748, the "Opening Doors for Youth Act of 2017", introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA). HEAL has read through this legislation and it looks promising. We are concerned that 50% of the grant monies provided through this legislation will be going towards "community-based" and "evidence-based" (as opposed to best evidence-based which is the proper standard) "preventions" and "interventions". Without clarification or limitations on what "preventions" and "interventions" will be permitted and leaving it up to states to determine the proper "prevention" and "intervention" services, may see more youth ending up in abusive institutions. This is our biggest concern with this legislation. Overall, the legislation appears promising in giving youth opportunities for both education and employment. However, some of the language in the bill has left us wondering if this is another sneaky giveaway to abusive institutions. Please join us by writing your Representative and demanding that segregated congregate care be excluded from any potential grant recipient lists. Take Action Now at: http://www.heal-online.org/hr1748action2017.htm
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has sponsored S. 827, "A bill to provide for the sealing or expungement of records relating to Federal nonviolent criminal offenses, and for other purposes." Learn more at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/827/cosponsors?pageSort=lastToFirst The text of this legislation is not yet available. But, HEAL is keeping an eye on this and other promising legislation sponsored and/or co-sponsored by the legislators with whom we met while in DC.
Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) has co-sponsored S. 866, introduced by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA), "A bill to amend the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 to eliminate the use of valid court orders to secure lockup of status offenders, and for other purposes." The text of this legislation (and others listed here) is not yet available. HEAL will be keeping a close watch on this and similar legislation. Learn more at: https://www.congress.gov/bill/115th-congress/senate-bill/866/cosponsors?pageSort=lastToFirst
HEAL is also continuing to work on legislative reforms at the State level. Police Captain Charles Kennedy (Ret.), HEAL Alabama Coordinator, is currently working with State Representative Steve McMillan (R-AL) to make sure that children and other vulnerable populations are protected from institutionalized abuse. Right now, you can sign our petition in support of HB 440, the "ALABAMA YOUTH RESIDENTIAL FACILITY ABUSE PREVENTION ACT". Sign now at: https://www.change.org/p/alabama-state-house-alabama-pass-make-law-hb-440-the-youth-residential-facility-abuse-prevention-act This legislation is very promising and you can view the current version of this bill at http://alisondb.legislature.state.al.us/ALISON/SearchableInstruments/2017RS/PrintFiles/HB440-int.pdf. While the bill is not perfect, it is a definite step in the right direction. It gives youth enrolled without a court order the right to be removed from any facility as well as the right to uncensored and unmonitored contact with parents and authorities. In addition, it bans the use of conversion therapy at faith-based programs and schools. This bill currently holds much promise for real change in Alabama.
In Washington State, HEAL HQ is supporting HB 5408 (2015-2016), " Removing references to faith-based exemptions regarding criminal mistreatment of children and vulnerable adults." This bill would require faith-based providers be regulated alongside secular providers of segregated congregate care/residential services. We are waiting on the 2017 version of this bill to be introduced and will keep you posted. You can view the text of this legislation here: http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5408.pdf.
Also, in Washington State HEAL HQ is supporting SB 5870 (2015-2016), " Prohibiting the use of aversion therapy in the treatment of minors." This bill would prohibit the use of aversion therapy (including conversion therapy) in the treatment of minors. We are waiting on the 2017 version of this bill to be introduced and will keep you posted. You can view the text of this legislation here: http://lawfilesext.leg.wa.gov/biennium/2015-16/Pdf/Bills/Senate%20Bills/5870.pdf
I have requested that both of the above bills in Washington be reintroduced this legislative session and will keep fighting until these bills become law!
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