(CLEVELAND) — An Ohio lawmaker is looking to pass a bill that would pay for a lifetime of medical care, a college education and $25,000 a year to the three Cleveland women who were held captive as sex slaves for more than a decade.
The bill is named after the three Cleveland women. It is called the Michelle Knight, Amanda Berry, and Gina DeJesus Survivors of Abduction Act and it has been introduced by Ohio state Rep. John Barnes, Jr., who said he wanted to restore some of the things in life the women were deprived during their captivity.
Knight, 32, Berry, 27, and DeJesus, 23, have kept a low profile since Berry escaped and the other two women were rescued May 6.
“This was perhaps one of the most tragic and protracted crimes in the history of our community here,” Barnes, a Democrat, told ABC News. “They were deprived of an education, they were deprived of health care, they were deprived of a normal life — a prom, an ice cream cone and all of that.”
The bill proposes that abduction survivors who spent eight or more years in captivity receive at least $25,000 for each year they were held, free tuition to any state university or college and a waiver from the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services that would provide them with medical assistance for the rest of their lives.
“I wanted to make sure that this would not be perceived as a giveaway,” Barnes said. “What I think it is, is a restoring of what they would have received had they been free.”
Barnes said he does not know of any other people in Ohio who have gone through a similar situation, but the act would help anyone who may have.
The attorneys for the Cleveland women recently released a letter on behalf of their clients, thanking the public for their encouragement, as well as for respecting their requests for privacy.
“The outpouring of public support has been nothing short of remarkable,” the letter said.
“To have complete strangers offer loving support in the form of money, goods and services, reaching out to help like a family member, is appreciated in ways that are impossible to put into words. Amanda, Gina and Michelle, who have asked for nothing, are frankly overwhelmed by it all.”
Ariel Castro, 52, has been charged with kidnapping and rape. He is being held on an $8 million bond and has yet to enter a plea.
The bill was introduced on Tuesday in Cleveland and was expected to be assigned to a committee on Wednesday.
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