From Toledo, Eldora and now Glenwood, Iowa has consistently failed its most vulnerable citizens.
In Toledo, after reports of egregious abuse led to the closure of the Juvenile Home, the teens were sent to a facility in Wisconsin where they faced more abuse, according to federal lawsuits filed in 2017.
In Eldora, mentally ill students at Iowa’s State Training School for boys filed a lawsuit alleging the misuse of restraints and solitary confinement. The judgment in a federal lawsuit still is pending. But in the meantime, students from the school continue to make disturbing allegations.
And now the Department of Justice is investigating the Glenwood Resource Center, which houses more than 200 people with intellectual disabilities. The investigation was sparked by an increased number of deaths due to the use of restraints and sexual arousal studies performed on residents without their consent.
This is an alarming pattern of human rights violations that needs to be addressed. The state cannot deal with this problem by simply closing the facilities. To do so will leave hundreds of Iowans vulnerable and homeless and, as with the teens from Toledo, expose them to further abuse.
The state must immediately launch an investigation into the disciplinary practices and procedures used in these facilities. New laws must be written, which will protect vulnerable Iowans from abuse at the hands of a state-run system that thus far has proved to be brutal and unsafe. Iowa must stop being reactive to these gross violations of human rights and must be proactive in preventing them in the future.
And, finally, the responsibility ultimately rests with the governor. A Des Moines Register report out this week showed that top health officials knew about the testing at Glenwood and proceeded despite warnings.
The governor’s office did issue a statement denying that Gov. Kim Reynolds knew about the abuse until after the Department of Justice launched its investigation.
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But at the end of the day, the lack of oversight and the continued pattern of abuse at Iowa’s state-run facilities rests with the head of our state. The most vulnerable Iowans are dying. We need our elected officials to step up and stop the abuse.
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