By Josh Moon
Alabama Political Reporter
With only a couple of days to spare, Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday signed into law a bill that will allow DHR to regulate and inspect residential youth camps, a spokeswoman for Ivey said.
The Legislation, HB440, sponsored by Rep. Steve McMillan, originated after numerous complaints, a handful of convictions and stories from national media outlets over horrible abuses at camps for “troubled teens” — a catchall term that could mean kids with attitude problems or children who are gay. Usually billing themselves as some sort of church-affiliated outfits, the camps were supposed to take troubled teens and instill discipline.
What often occurred, however, was abuse, law enforcement officials said. Charles Kennedy, a retired police officer from Fairhope, recounted finding a naked boy who had been held in solitary confinement for days on end at one camp near Mobile. Kennedy worked for more than five years to get that camp shut down.
But even for Law Enforcement, closing those camps and holding the camps’ operators responsible for the abuse was nearly impossible, because the State lacked legal standing to inspect the camps or regulate the methods used. With the regulations in place from McMillan’s bill, new camps — which are often operated by people from outside the State — will have to register with DHR and be subject to inspections and other regulations.