A proposal to require video cameras in common areas of residential facilities for the disabled has stalled in Albany, despite several cases of abuse and neglect that supporters say cameras could have caught
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — A proposal to require video cameras in common areas of residential facilities for the disabled has stalled in Albany, with supporters saying it would uncover abuse and neglect and opponents raising privacy concerns.
The bill requiring video cameras isn’t expected to get a vote before lawmakers adjourn for the year on Wednesday. Several agencies and groups providing care for the disabled oppose the idea, saying cameras would violate their clients’ privacy.
But supporters say video cameras in the kitchens, hallways and recreation rooms of residential facilities would serve as a reminder to caregivers that they must treat residents with respect and dignity. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, likened video cameras in residential common areas to the nanny cams used by parents to keep an eye on their children — and those watching their children.
“Most of the people who do this work are very good and very dedicated,” said the bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, D-Westchester County. But we need to weed out the handful of people who are not doing it properly.”
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Opponents say the legal implications of video cameras make requiring them a bad idea. The Developmental Disabilities Alliance of Western New York represents 55 agencies that care for developmentally disabled people in western New York. The group opposes the legislation on the grounds that it would violate the privacy of residents.
“The blanket use of surveillance cameras … contributes to the creation of an institutional-like environment and is a limitation on the privacy of individuals in their living spaces and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act,” the group said in its testimony to the Legislature.
An Associated Press review of recent cases revealed several in which alleged abuse or neglect occurred in common areas of residential facilities — some of them owned and operated by the state.
Earlier this year, a privately run group home in Schenectady agreed to pay $450,000 to the family of a developmentally disabled boy who used his PlayStation to surreptitiously record caretakers threatening his life. The boy, then 12, recorded a caregiver saying “I’m gonna kill a kid and you might be the one I kill. … You want me to f—— hurt you boy?” State investigators determined that staff members mistreated the boy, but no one was prosecuted.
Also this year the state agreed to a $2.25 million settlement with the family of a disabled man who choked to death in a state-run group home while an aide allegedly texted her boyfriend from the bathroom.
Last year the state paid $3 million to the family of a boy repeatedly molested by a staffer at a state-run group home, sometimes in an open, common area. The former staffer, Stephen DeProspero, is now imprisoned in the Attica Correctional Facility. He was incriminated by videos and photographs he took of the molestation, which occurred from 2005 to 2008 at the facility located in central New York.
DeProspero wrote in an affidavit that “the lack of supervision there made it easy to do what I did… It was a predator’s dream.”
The Office for People With Developmental Disabilities, which oversees care for more than 128,000 New Yorkers, declined to comment on the legislation.