Saturday, September 25, 2010

This Should Not Happen

This story in the Los Angeles Times reporting that criminal predators are being allowed to work in the homes of the vulnerable documents a reality that should not be allowed to happen.

Clearly, the rights of former criminals to work needs to be protected, but when there is a substantial relationship between the offense and the possibility of recurrence in the work environment—which this clearly is—then the rights of the potential victims need take precedence.

An excerpt.

“Scores of people convicted of crimes such as rape, elder abuse and assault with a deadly weapon are permitted to care for some of California's most vulnerable residents as part of the government's home health aide program.

“Data provided by state officials show that at least 210 workers and applicants flagged by investigators as unsuitable to work in the program are nonetheless scheduled to resume or begin employment.

“State and county investigators have not reported many whose backgrounds include violent crimes because the rules of the program, as interpreted by a judge earlier this year, permit felons to work as home care aides. Thousands of current workers have had no background checks.

“Only a history of specific types of child abuse, elder abuse or defrauding of public assistance programs can disqualify a person under the court ruling. But not all perpetrators of even those crimes can be blocked.

“In addition, privacy laws prevent investigators from cautioning the program's elderly, infirm and disabled clients that they may end up in the care of someone who has committed violent or financial crimes.

"We are allowing these people into the homes of vulnerable individuals without supervision," said John Wagner, director of the state Department of Social Services. "It is dangerous…. These are serious convictions."

“Alarmed administrators and law enforcement officials have warned lawmakers, who have the power to change the program's rules, that the system may be inviting predators to exploit program enrollees. But efforts to address the problem have stalled in the Legislature.

“Lawmakers with ties to unions representing home care workers are wary of making more changes to a program they have cut deeply under pressure from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. Relatively new restrictions on who can work in the program or receive its benefits, also implemented at the governor's urging, have already created unnecessary obstacles, lawmakers and activists say.

“State and county investigators have identified 996 convicted felons working or seeking jobs in the program since background checks were launched last year; 786 of them were removed or declared ineligible, according to the state Department of Social Services.

“The rest are expected to be employed in the program despite the investigators' concerns. Among them is a woman convicted of false imprisonment, assault with a deadly weapon, forging drug prescriptions and selling drugs who continues to work as a caregiver, according to state officials. Another person was convicted of welfare fraud, willfully threatening bodily harm, drug possession and two counts of burglary.”