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Rep. Fisher calls for Disability Rights Iowa curbs
April 11, 2018

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Letter to the Editor,

Tama and Toledo News

Re: Disability Rights Iowa April 4, 2018

I would like to thank Editor John Speer of the Tama and Toledo Newspapers for bringing attention to the recent events at the State Training School at Eldora (Eldora). While I've been aware of the lawsuits filed by Disability Rights Iowa (DRI), I was not aware of the recent assault and escape that resulted from DRI's interference.

Mr. Speer's article quoted a press release from the Association of Federal, State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) that stated: "We have been warning that the culture created by Disability Rights Iowa (DRI) at the State Training School at Eldora (Eldora) has become dangerous for staff. This week's assault on staff by residents, who then escaped the facility, is indicative of the escalating violence that has become a dangerous trend. This is caused by emboldened residents being told by DRI that they don't have to follow staff directives and that staff are not allowed to touch them," and "The witch hunts and constant lawsuits from the attorneys that make up DRI are making the State Training School at Eldora less safe for both residents and staff. When boys can escape after beating up employees, something is seriously wrong,"

This behavior by DRI at Eldora is very similar to their behavior at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo during their investigation back in 2013. Clearly DRI is creating safety issues with their behavior.

It is important for our citizens to understand what DRI is. They are, per their own description stated to me by their director, a federally funded law-firm. From DRI's own website: "Disability Rights IOWA is part of a national network of protection and advocacy systems established in the 1970s by the U.S. Congress to respond to repeated abuse and neglect of individuals with disabilities in large institutions." "We are not affiliated with any governmental entity or service provider, but we use federal funding to serve people with developmental disabilities, mental illnesses, and other disabilities."

It is also important for our citizens to understand what the State Training School at Eldora is. From the DHS website: "The State Training School at Eldora provides treatment and educational services within a highly structured setting to assist youth who are adjudicated delinquent."

In the case of Eldora, all of the juveniles held there are adjudicated delinquent, meaning they are either convicted of a crime or are being held awaiting trial as a result of criminal charges. Some of these juveniles are also deemed disabled by virtue of varying degrees of mental illness, but certainly not all. Apparently it is the opinion of DRI that the designation of "disabled" completely supersedes any other status such as a criminal conviction, hence their behavior in telling residents that they don't have to follow staff directives and that the staff can't touch them. Any such opinion is obviously seriously flawed. These instructions to the residents might be proper for a person that is voluntarily residing in a care facility, however, any person with common sense would understand that a child being held as a result of being adjudicated delinquent would need to follow staff direction and may need to be restrained as a matter of discipline.

Unfortunately, this opinion of DRI's is reinforced by the filing of lawsuits against Eldora and thus against the Department of Human Services and the State of Iowa. The result is that Eldora is being coerced into a contradictory set of constraints that cannot both be met. They must hold these residents and maintain order and safety for the staff and other residents because the residents are adjudicated to be held there, but the lawsuits filed by DRI and their directions to the residents are meant to prevent Eldora from using the means necessary for maintaining order and safety such as expecting residents to obey directives and restraining the residents when necessary.

We cannot continue with DRI causing safety problems in our juvenile facilities, nor can we tolerate them using our federal tax dollars to endlessly harass them in order to enforce their bizarre requirements. Not only is this creating a safety issue, it is also a waste of federal tax dollars, it is a waste of Iowa's state tax dollars defending ourselves from these federally funded lawsuits filed by DRI, and ultimately any attempts to comply with these bizarre demands by DRI will increase the cost of holding these juvenile delinquents if it's even possible to meet the contradictory demands of DRI in any facility.

We must either restrain DRI, or defund them. I have contacted Senator Grassley's office, Senator Ernst's office, and Representative Blum's office regarding this matter. I would encourage the readers of this newspaper to do the same. A letter or phone call is always worthwhile, or on easy approach I could suggest would be to simply mail a hardcopy of this article to each of our US Congresspersons along with your note suggesting they do something about this behavior.

Regards,

Rep. Dean Fisher

Senator Grassley

Cedar Rapids Office

111 7th Avenue SE, Box 13

Suite 6800

Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

Phone: (319)-363-6832

Senator Ernst

Cedar Rapids Office

111 Seventh Avenue SE

Suite 480

Cedar Rapids, IA 52401

Phone: (319) 365-4504

Representative Blum

Cedar Falls Office

515 Main Street, Suite D

Cedar Falls, IA 50613

Phone: (319)-266-6925

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