Democrats in the Iowa House and Senate say they suspect there’s a move to convert the Boys State Training School in Eldora into a prison.
A bill that has cleared the Iowa House calls for the school to provide “humane, disciplined confinement” to juveniles “who present a danger to the community.” Representative Beth Wessel-Kroeschell, a Democrat from Ames, said the boys sent to Eldora “deserve another chance” at a facility focused on counseling and education.
“They’ve done bad things. Don’t get me wrong. These kids are hard to love,” she said, “but they are still children of Iowa and they still deserve our love and our services.”
Judges send boys between the ages of 12 to 18 who are classified as juvenile delinquents to Eldora. Democrats like Representative Mary Mascher of Iowa City say rather than transitioning the facility to a prison, it should provide more mental health services to troubled teenage boys.
“There’s a punitive nature to corrections,” Mascher said. “Treatment has a whole different set of standards.”
A key Republican said he is “not aware of” plans to turn the Boys State Training School over to the Department of Corrections. And another Republican, Representative Dave Heaton of Mount Pleasant, says the GOP will ensure Eldora provides “adequate” mental health treatment.
“I’m listening to criticism in this chamber. It’s like there are buzzards up above that are circling and they’re trying to attack, I think, a very good facility,” Heaton said. “…I’m telling you, I’m getting a little tired of the criticism that you people are dishing out.”
Earlier this week, Democrats in the Senate issued a news release saying they are concerned the Iowa Department of Human Services has plans “to turn the State Training School for Boys in Eldora into a correctional facility.”