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Watchdog Group Slams State Agency Over Abuse And Neglect Investigations
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 27, 2005

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA--A report published this week by a disability rights watchdog group revealed that cases of abuse and neglect of many South Carolinians with disabilities often are not reported or investigated, and those responsible are seldom made responsible.

The 76-page report, "Unequal Justice for South Carolinians with Disabilities", was initiated by the state's federally mandated Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc.(P&A).

The P&A reviewed 50 cases of alleged physical and sexual abuse and neglect of adults served or contracted through the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs (DDSN) over the past two years.

The researchers found that agencies were often left to investigate themselves and use their own standards -- which are not consistent with the state's Omnibus Adult Protection Act that was designed to protect people with disabilities.

"This is not a trivial issue," said Gloria Prevost, the P&A's executive director. "The report includes one homicide, two deaths from choking, physical injuries with excruciating pain, and other shocking examples of abuse and neglect."

Researchers also found that reports were often delayed, if done at all, resulting in serious problems with preserving evidence and protecting victims of abuse and neglect. Further, administrators conducted investigations with a focus on policies and procedures rather than reporting to law enforcement for criminal investigations.

Even those cases that were reported to law enforcement were not investigated properly, and were not prosecuted, in part because DDSN's reporting process lacks sufficient information for conducting criminal investigations.

While this report focused on adults served through DDSN, it also found similar problems with the investigation of abuse and neglect of children and adults with mental illness.

"This is a disturbing report," said Dave Almeida, executive director of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill-South Carolina in a press release. "What's troubling is that these similarities might be producing similar results."

Related report:
"Unequal Justice for South Carolinians with Disabilities" (Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc)
http://www.protectionandadvocacy-sc.org/Unequal%20Justice%20Report.pdf

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