A new report has found dozens of sex offenders in New York State living, legally, in group homes for people with developmental disabilities. Of 35 sex offenders identified so far, two are at a group home in Erie County.
These registered sex offenders are placed in these homes by New York State because they have diagnosed developmental disabilities.
The Jonathan Carey Foundation compared incidents of substantiated claims of abuse at group home facilities with the state sex offender registry to find which locations are housing registered sex offenders. Michael Carey, who named the foundation after his son who he says died at a state facility, said families and friends of people living at these group homes are not even being alerted when a sex offender moves in.
“New York State Attorney General Barbara Underwood must legally direct Governor Andrew Cuomo, the Commissioners of DOCCS and OPWDD as well as the Executive Director of the Justice Center to immediately cease from placing convicted sex offenders from prison into state and private group homes for people with disabilities," Carey said. "The Attorney General must also ensure that all sex offenders placed within the system statewide are swiftly removed to protect our most vulnerable from preventable sexual assaults or rape. Anyone involved in committing these felonies must be held accountable to the full extent of the law.”
NYS Senator Rob Ortt is calling for the Office for People With Developmental Disabilities (OPWDD) to stop this practice. The State Senate has voted in favor of a bill to make this illegal, but the bill has stalled in the State Assembly.
"I can't even believe that we're sitting here talking about this as a standard practice," Senator Ortt said.
Several other WNY lawmakers have supported this legislation, including Senator Michael Ranzenhofer who sponsors the aforementioned bill and Senator Tim Kennedy who has called for these changes in the past.
According to OPWDD, every person living in group home facilities has a diagnosed developmental disability. It released the following statement to 7 Eyewitness News:
Under State law and decades long practice, people with developmental disabilities who have sex offender designations can be and have been legally and appropriately served in group homes. OPWDD only provides services for people with a diagnosed developmental disability as defined by state law, and OPWDD is further obligated by law to provide needed services to those who qualify regardless of a person’s clinical or forensic history. This practice has been followed for decades to assure that these individuals with developmental disabilities receive appropriate services and supports while ensuring the safety of others.
Staff at group homes take certain precautions depending on each individual, which can include enhanced supervision, restricted cell phone or internet access and notification systems if the person tries to leave the residence.
Groups like The Jonathan Carey Foundation claim this practice of housing sex offenders with developmental disabilities in group homes actually violates state law.
According to NYS Penal Law 260.25, "a person is guilty of endangering the welfare of an incompetent or physically disabled person in the first degree when he knowingly acts in a manner likely to be injurious to the physical, mental or moral welfare of a person who is unable to care for himself or herself because of physical disability, mental disease or defect."
Michael Carey points out that this practice should fall under this portion of the law, which is a felony.