Dozens arrested still caring for disabled

March 23, 2010 9:32:17 AM PDT
At least 36 employees at state-run centers who were arrested for felonies such as child rape and murder continued on the payroll to care for the mentally disabled, according to criminal fingerprint checks. Of those, 17 had felony convictions and 19 still face trial, the Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday, citing records from the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services.

Legislators on Tuesday were scheduled to discuss improvements at state facilities for the mentally disabled in the year since shocking cell phone video surfaced of forced fights between residents.

The so-called "fight club" at what was known as the Corpus Christi State School led to increased security and overview of such facilities.

The latest plea in the case was entered on March 10. Former worker Guadalupe Delarosa Jr., 22, pleaded guilty to two counts of injury to the disabled and was sentenced to four years in prison.

The release of the records, first requested six weeks ago by the Chronicle, came as legislators consider what changes have been made to Texas' 13 state-supported living centers.

A spokeswoman for state Rep. Patrick Rose of Dripping Springs, chairman of the House Committee on Human Services, said he would not comment before the meeting Tuesday.

The latest reform shows how pre-employment criminal background screens failed to alert the state to employees with criminal records, according to the newspaper.

Of the 17 employees with convictions, 13 have been terminated or resigned. The other four are still in "process" according to the agency, which released the numbers without comment.

"Of course it still matters. That amount of people has control over a handful of residents who are unable to communicate abuse or neglect or ward off that type of aggression," said Beth Mitchell, senior managing attorney for Advocacy Inc., a group that has fought for better care of the mentally disabled in Texas. "You don't want someone like that corrupting other staff. That's what we saw in Corpus Christi. It only took one staff to corrupt a group of staff in the fight club."

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