Times Series on Group-Home Abuses Gets Results

Danny Hakim’s report on a new agreement between New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the state’s largest public-employee union contains what must have been a gratifying passage to write:

In addition to the wage and benefits concessions, the union also agreed to an overhaul of the disciplinary procedures for state employees accused of abuse or neglect of the developmentally disabled. The state and the union will develop a series of punishments for employees who commit disciplinary offenses in an effort to end the seemingly random punishments handed out by arbitrators to employees in the past. And there will also be an overhaul of the current arbitration panel and higher pay in an effort to recruit better arbitrators.

The Cuomo administration had pressed for the changes after a series of articles in The New York Times examining the treatment of the disabled in group homes and state-run institutions. Among the newspaper’s findings: The state has retained workers who committed physical or sexual abuse, rehired many workers it had fired, shunned whistle-blowers and rarely reported allegations of abuse to law enforcement officials.

Though today’s story doesn’t say so, the reporter who produced the articles in that series is none other than Hakim. His latest, on the death of Jonathan Carey, an autistic 13-year-old, is a devastating, heart-breaking piece of investigative journalism. (And it makes clear that there are tremendous management failures in the state’s group-home system, so here’s hoping these new disciplinary rules are not the extent of the reform.) It’s long, but worth every word; if you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here.

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Greg Marx is an associate editor at CJR. Follow him on Twitter @gregamarx.