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Statewide abuse registry lists no one

By Spencer Hunt and Debra Jasper
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A statewide registry of abuse suspects is supposed to keep bad workers out of homes and institutions for Ohio's mentally retarded.

There's just one problem: More than a year after it was created, the registry contains not one name.

Ken Ritchey, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation, says officials needed time to give abuse suspects hearings and a fair chance to object. He says four names may soon appear on the list.

''We're working with the attorney general to make sure we don't do anything wrong,'' Mr. Ritchey says. ''I don't, in any way, want to violate due-process rights.''

Lawmakers approved the registry with great fanfare in November 2000. They envisioned a list that would contain the names of every person convicted, and even those strongly suspected, of abusing mentally retarded people.

A bad worker couldn't just move from one facility to another. The state and owners of private nursing homes and group homes for the mentally retarded could avoid hiring abusive employees simply by looking up their names on a Web site.

Names can be added if the department decides that there is clear and convincing evidence that the person abused someone.

The department can use police investigations, home inspection reports and job arbitration hearings as evidence. While a criminal conviction would help, it is not essential.

Anyone who is accused can request a hearing. The registry can list only abuse suspects identified since November 2000, when it was put in place.

Although a name has yet to appear, state officials still tout the list as an important tool to fight abuse.

''If you hang in long enough, we're going to have someone on the registry,'' Mr. Ritchey says.

Inside the Report
Abuse, neglect go unpunished
Caregivers accused of hurting the mentally retarded are rarely prosecuted - sometimes they're paid to leave.

Statewide abuse registry lists no one
The list is supposed to keep bad workers out of homes and institutions, but there are no names on it.

Detective's experience is valuable and rare
Monique Shafer is the only officer in Ohio's six major cities or counties working full-time on crimes against the mentally retarded.

Who's accountable
The agencies and departments charged with prosecuting crimes against the mentally retarded.

Photographer's album
A visual journey into the lives of Ohio's mentally retarded.

Ohio's Secret Shame

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