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Utah lawmakers approve bill aimed at regulating ‘troubled teen’ centers

Paris Hilton leads a protest Friday, Oct. 9, 2020, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah lawmakers have passed a bill that would set more regulations for the state’s various “troubled teen” centers.

Utah lawmakers give the ‘OK’ to troubled teen bill

The measure would set new rules for the industry for the first time in 15 years. 

The topic gained further notoriety following the personal testimony of Paris Hilton, who traveled to Utah’s Capitol Hill and spoke about her experiences.

Hilton said she endured “unconstitutional, degrading and terrifying” abuse in the 1990s while at Provo Canyon School.

Supporters say SB127 would add guardrails and oversight that has been lacking.

“What this bill does is it addresses some of the problems that have really come out of the congregate care setting,” explains the bill’s House sponsor, Rep. Brady Brammer, R-Pleasant Grove.

Sharing personal experiences

On Tuesday, Brammer briefly shared his own personal testimony relating to the issue. He recalled the experience of serving as a sponsor for his brother who was participating in narcotics anonymous. 

“As this bill has kind of made its way through, it has brought to my mind a lot of those memories,” he explained. “Things that were a little humiliating for my brother.”

Some potential amendments were discussed, including one from Representative Rex Shipp, R-Cedar City. He argued that kids can sometimes be violent towards staff, who in his opinion, should be able to induce pain if totally necessary to protect health and safety.

Other lawmakers resisted the amendment, mostly claiming that it would leave the door open to potential abuse.

The House eventually voted 70-2 to approve the bill. It comes after the Senate approved it on a unanimous vote last month. 

The only votes against came from House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, and Representative Adam Robertson, R-Provo.

The bill now goes to Gov. Spencer Cox for his consideration.