Justice in Texas: Mistreating Developmentally Disabled Nets Jail Time
Texas is not a state you want to live in if you have a developmental or mental disability.
As we noted in June, Texas punished 268 abusive employees who take care of this vulnerable population in state-run care facilities (such as hospitals and schools). Previously, over 1,100 employees were fired or disciplined for mistreating the people under their care. Over one thousand employees! That’s just an amazing number.
But I guess justice finally catches up to those who think nothing of mistreating or abusing those in their care. At least that’s what Jesse Salazar discovered this week.
You may remember him as one of the 11 people the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services fired in April for encouraging fights among mentally and developmentally disabled residents at one of the state’s special schools. The mainstream media is characterizing this as a sort of “Fight Club,” but it’s really nothing like it since the participants weren’t exactly voluntary.
Jesse Salazar was convicted this week of intentionally causing injury to a disabled person. It’s a felony and it carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Salazar got off relatively lightly with only a three year sentence.
But here’s the real kicker for you. Had it not been for an accidental loss of someone’s cell phone, this kind of abuse could still be going on in Texas facilities:
Almost 20 videos of the fights were discovered in March when a cell phone containing the images was found at a clothing store and turned in to police. The four videos shown to jurors in Salazar’s case were filmed in early 2008.
This wasn’t due to any oversight or investigation on the part of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, which failed miserably in its job of protecting those under its care. No, it was due to someone losing their cell phone and some Good Samaritan turning it into police when found! It’s even more infuriating to learn that these “fight club” fights had been taking place for more than a year:
For more than a year, authorities said, staff on the night shift in one of the Corpus Christi facility’s dorms staged fights among the residents. They instigated the bouts with direct commands and pranks aimed at spurring the residents to turn on each other, police said.
I’m sorry, but the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, Adelaide (Addie) Horn, should offer her resignation. How could this be happening on your watch — for over a year — and you have no idea it’s going on? How could you oversee a department where 8 percent of your employees are fired or disciplined for mistreating or outright abusing the people you’re tasked with caring for? Other members of executive team for the Department should also be held accountable, including Barry Waller, who is directly responsible for overseeing the state schools (where this incident occurred).
The good news is that Salazar won’t be the last brought up on charges and tried for their crimes against the developmentally disabled:
More indictments could be in the works. Corpus Christi Police Detective Curtis Abbott testified this week that the number of suspects in the case had risen to 12 and of those, cases had been prepared against at least three more than the six already charged.
What a sad year for Texas and their social services programs. Let’s hope this incident was a wake-up call for the Department, and not only in Texas, but in all states that hire unqualified individuals to help take care of the developmentally and mentally disabled.
Read the full article: Texas ‘fight club’ defendant sentenced to 3 years
Grohol, J. (2009). Justice in Texas: Mistreating Developmentally Disabled Nets Jail Time. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 22, 2015, from http://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2009/08/15/justice-in-texas-mistreating-developmentally-disabled-nets-jail-time/