In Ohio, people suspected of striking, kicking or stealing from mentally retarded victims rarely get punished.
Sometimes, they get paid off.
Since 1997, the state has paid 18 workers more than $150,000 to leave institutions where they were suspected of abusing or neglecting mentally retarded residents, The Cincinnati Enquirer has learned.
Officials were so determined to get rid of a Guernsey County worker suspected of hitting a mentally retarded woman in the head with a shoe that they paid him $75,000.
State officials say they can't always fire the workers because civil service rules protect them with lengthy appeals.
The payoffs are one result of a statewide law enforcement system that routinely fails to investigate and punish those who abuse and neglect mentally retarded citizens.
''I put one person in jail in my entire career,'' says Ken Ritchey, director of the Ohio Department of Mental Retardation. ''It was an egregious case, and even then the only reason we got him is he confessed.''
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About this project
Enquirer reporters Debra Jasper and Spencer Hunt and photographer Michael E. Keating spent 10 months crisscrossing the state, interviewing the mentally retarded, their families, advocates and officials. They traveled to dozens of places, from rural Vinton County in Appalachia to Lake County, bordering Lake Erie.
Ms. Jasper is Statehouse bureau chief. She has covered politics and government for 16 years.
Mr. Hunt is Statehouse bureau reporter. He has written about politics and government for 10 years.
Mr. Keating, a 23-year-veteran photographer, covers everything from sports and politics to breaking news.
E-mail him at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael E. Keating:
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