Clarence Sundram, the governor’s special adviser on vulnerable persons, defended the governor’s plan for a new justice center on Fred Dicker’s radio program today against criticisms it needs more outside oversight.
In response to Dicker asking whether the proposal is akin to “the fox guarding the henhouse,” Sundram said, “I can’t think of a precedent of giving prosecutorial power and the power to go on and impanel a grand jury to some private organization. That does not happen.”
A deal has been reached by Cuomo and legislative leaders on creating the new Justice Center for the Protection of People With Special Needs, which includes a new special prosecutor to defend victims, a new victim hotline and consolidation of investigatory responsibilities for six state agencies.
The Cuomo administration is also taking steps too boost outside oversight, but some advocates argue that the state has proved to be incapable of combating abuse and that more local law enforcement involvement is needed.
Sundram said that having accountability is critical, but argued that the governor would ensure that the new agency was effective.
“I think the governor, by putting this idea out there, and by putting the power of his office behind creating this legislation, is going to be accountable for how it performs,” Sundram said. And he wants to be accountable for it. He’s made it a priority to shore up this area of government functioning which he’s said has been one that has gone through a period of atrophy and apathy.”
A series of stories by New York Times have highlighted cases of severe abuse of patients in the state’s care.
Sundram said that for the substantiated cases of abuse, about two percent of injuries required more than first aid in both the mental health system and in the developmental disabilities system. But he said it’s not easy to tell how widespread abuses are and how they compare to other states, since there are no comparable measures of the incidence of abuse — something the new agency would also begin measuring.
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