Community Protection Measure Will Not Protect Participants' Rights,
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 8, 2006
OLYMPIA, WASHINGTON--Some disability rights advocates in Washington are criticizing a legislative proposal that they claim does not protect the due process rights of adults with developmental disabilities served through the state's Community Protection Program.
The state Division of Developmental Disabilities says that about 380 people who live in their own apartments or homes are currently supervised 24 hours a day through the program by for-profit residential service providers. Most of the participants have been convicted of crimes, but some have exhibited "inappropriate behaviors" in public, or have been suspected of crimes, but are not legally able to assist in their own defense.
Supporters say the program allows people who would have been jailed or otherwise institutionalized to live in the community.
Critics claim, however, that the program violates the due process rights of participants because there is no court oversight. While the Community Protection Program is considered voluntary, participants are forced to agree to follow the program rules or risk losing all of their services.
Advocates had hoped that Senate Bill 6630, which was introduced last month, would have provided more legal safeguards for those in the program. But, according to Friday's Seattle Post-Intelligencer, they dropped their support when a new draft failed to include a state ombudsman, dropped fines for private contractors that provide substandard care, and lacked a provision to provide legal or other expert help for participants who want to fight their placement in the program.
"We're very disappointed," said David Carlson, an attorney with the Washington Protection and Advocacy System (WPAS).
"We're talking about house arrest here," Carlson added. "An advocate has to be there or this is just an illusion."
Sponsors of the bill said that the protections WPAS wants are too expensive right now.
On Tuesday, the latest draft of SB 6630 passed from the Senate Ways and Means Committee to the Rules Committee.
Last November, the Post-Intelligencer ran a three-day investigative series on the Community Protection Program. The series looked at the due process concerns, along with reports that participants themselves had been put at risk of physical assault, sexual abuse, financial exploitation and theft.
"Senate Bill 6630" (State of Washington Legislature)
"Critics balk at bills for troubled adults" (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)
"Public protection, private abuse" November 16, 2005 (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)