(KCPW News) The House approved new standards for juvenile boot camps yesterday, but Utah's congressional delegation split along party lines. Democratic Representative Jim Matheson approved the new rules that intend to clamp down on so-called "tough-love" practices, which allegedly have led to widespread abuse and deaths at the camps. But Republican Congressman Rob Bishop voted against it.
"Well it's another example of where the federal government is stepping in and does not need to," Bishop says. "The states already have in line laws and regulations that are far superior than what's in this bill. So proponents are claiming this is the floor. But what I've seen happen so frequently – especially in education – the floor becomes the ceiling."
If the bill passes, operators in Utah will be compelled to lower their standards of care, Bishop says. He adds that testimony for the bill lacked quantifiable evidence that abuse is a widespread problem requiring federal action.
"At no time, did any of the testimony quantify if there is a problem that needed federal control," Bishop says. "And if there is a problem, there was no testimony that states couldn't solve this problem on their own. Just because the federal government can do something, doesn't mean we have to. Sometimes we create more havoc and harm by trying to do something on everything that blows around here."
According to the Associated Press, 20,000 to 30,000 teenagers attend therapeutic boarding schools, wilderness camps and boot camps nationwide. Many are located in Utah. A Government Accountability Office report released last year states that 28 states in 2006 reported at least one child fatality in the programs. Utah's other Republican Congressman, Representative Chris Cannon, did not vote on the bill.