Paris Hilton Testifies About Utah Youth Treatment Centers
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Paris Hilton testified in the state Senate Judiciary, Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee on Monday, advocating for a bill that would increase transparency and proposes to end abusive practices in Utah’s congregate care programs.
SB127 sponsored by Sen. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, proposes that youth treatment centers “may not use a cruel, severe, unusual, or unnecessary practice on a child, including: a strip search; a body cavity search; inducing pain to obtain compliance; hyperextending joints; peer restraints; discipline or punishment that is intended to frighten or humiliate.”
It also requires the treatment centers to maintain suicide prevention policies.
“I want to be clear about why we are here,” McKell said. “We are here to look at our laws and address concerns. We need to provide appropriate safeguards to protect our children.”
Hilton has previously called for the closure of Provo Canyon School after she said she was mentally and physically abused during her 11 months at the Utah boarding school.
“For the past 20 years, I’ve had a recurring nightmare where I am kidnapped in the middle of the night by two escorts, strip-searched and locked in a facility,” Hilton said. “I wish I could tell you this haunting nightmare was just a dream, but unfortunately it is not.”
Hilton led a protest at the school in October 2020 as part of the group Breaking Code Silence, which says it’s “a movement organized by a network of survivors and activists to raise awareness of the problems in the Troubled Teen Industry.”
“I am proof that money doesn’t protect against abuse” Paris Hilton tells a #Utah Senate committee.
“I’ve been silent for far too long”
Hilton said @mikemckellutah’s SB127 is the first step to protect children
— Ladd Egan (@laddegan) February 8, 2021
“I don’t know if my nightmares will ever go away, but I do know that there are hundreds of thousands of kids going through this, and maybe if I stop their nightmares it will help me stop mine,” Hilton said.
During Monday’s committee meeting, she said Utah’s current laws don’t protect children in treatment centers.
“I am proof money doesn’t protect against abuse,” Hilton added. “Just because a program charges high tuition or has a prestigious name doesn’t mean it’s high quality.”
"The youth in our nation are experiencing a mental health crisis and now more than ever, children need affectionate, compassionate treatment."
–Caroline Lorson, @BreakingCodeSi1 #utpol pic.twitter.com/kbzkjDlaIp
— Utah Senate (@utahsenate) February 8, 2021
Provo Canyon School officials told KSL in August 2020 they wouldn’t comment on Hilton’s allegations because the ownership of the school changed in 2000.
In a statement, school officials said, “We do not condone or promote any form of abuse. Any and all alleged/suspected abuse is reported to our state regulatory authorities, law enforcement and Child Protective Services immediately as required. We are committed to providing high-quality care to youth with special, and often complex, emotional, behavioral and psychiatric needs.”
The school aims to help youth who have struggled in typical home and school environments, some of whom are dealing with drug addiction or acting out violently, according to its website.
However, Hilton said nothing has changed under new management.
“They’re lying,” she said. “They have the same staff members, the same policies.”
Other women have come forward alleging they were abused at the school, including Lee Goldman, whose parents sent her to Provo Canyon School “because I was having some rebellious behavior and they thought this school would help.”
She said she was sent to the school against her will from October 2002 to May 2004.
“When I got to the school I was taken upstairs to a room with a bunch of staff and I was told to take off all of my clothes,” she said. “I faced a lot of abuse. I faced days where I would just sit in their observation rooms which are unheated rooms with a drain in the middle of them.”
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