Updated 05/07/2012 08:29 PM
Cuomo introduces justice center legislation
Last year there were more than 10,000 allegations of abuse against New Yorkers with special needs and disabilities in state operated, certified or licensed facilities and programs. But the state has never had a comprehensive standard for tracking and investigating complaints or punishing guilty workers until now. Our Erin Vannella reports.
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NEW YORK STATE -- "He had a few words and one of them was daddy," said Delmar resident Michael Carey. "And he'd say ‘daddy, daddy’ when I'd call to talk to him. That's what's been taken from me. Jonathan has been taken from me."
Michael Carey's son was 13 when he died at the hands of O.D. Heck state residential facility employees in 2007. And every day since, Carey has fought to ensure other innocent disabled children's lives don't meet the same end.
"He brought joy to tons of people but then after he was abused, he was literally tortured," said Carey. "I mean, Jonathan was one of thousands. You wouldn't believe the calls and emails I get."
Monday, the state talked back.
"Enough is enough," said Governor Andrew Cuomo. "People deserve fairness. People deserve justice and that's what this initiative is all about. It's called the Justice Center."
It's new legislation to assign a special prosecutor and inspector general to investigate reports of abuse and neglect within state licensed facilities and programs. There would be a hotline, too, and an expansion of the FOIL act to make records of abuse public.
"This is not a new story," said Cuomo. "It's an unfortunate microcosm of the deterioration of state government in the past 15 years in my opinion anywhere. It's just in this area, where you're literally responsible for people's lives, the damage is greater."
And no one feels that more than Carey and parents around the state who acknowledge the step forward but say it's not complete.
"We need to have a significant package of preventative measures from hiring practices to surveillance cameras," said Carey. "So this is a step toward reform but there need to me many other things that need to be done now."