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After Paris Hilton testimony, Utah Senate poised to pass bill to regulate troubled-teen centers

Paris Hilton looks over at Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, as they testify about SB127 before the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. The bill, sponsored by McKell, would better regulate centers for troubled teens.
Paris Hilton looks over at Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, as they testify about SB127 before the Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, Feb. 8, 2021. The bill, sponsored by McKell, would better regulate centers for troubled teens.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Three days after Paris Hilton testified in front of a Utah legislative panel about the abuse she suffered as a teen at a Utah facility for troubled teens, the state Senate is poised to pass a bill to place tighter restrictions on those facilities.

The bill received unanimous support in an early vote — meaning it will likely pass in a final vote — with some lawmakers calling it one of the most important issues they will address this legislative session.

SB127, sponsored by Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, seeks to put more government oversight on Utah’s youth residential treatment centers. It would require the treatment centers to document instances of physical restraints and involuntary confinement and submit monthly reports to the Utah Office of Licensing. It would also ban chemical sedation and mechanical restraints unless authorized.

The bill must have one more vote in the Senate before it can move to the House for consideration.

On Monday, Hilton recalled in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee getting “kidnapped in the middle of the night by two strangers, strip searched and locked in” at Provo Canyon School. She and others who had stayed in facilities of that kind recalled dehumanizing and abusive treatment.

Hilton said children in Provo Canyon School were “restrained, thrown into walls, strangled, and sexually abused regularly.” She said she couldn’t report it because “all communication with my family awas being monitored and censored.”

“I tell my story not so that anyone feels bad for me,” Hilton said. “But to shine a light on the reality of what happened then, and is still happening now.”