It seems that as events unfold in the wake of the alleged fatal assault of an intellectually disabled man at the Templeton Developmental Center in September, the system continues to fail everyone it was intended to protect.
Last week, Anthony Remillard was found competent to stand trial in connection with the death of Dennis Perry whom Remillard allegedly assaulted while both were in the Templeton Center’s dairy barn. As of this week, Remillard was being held without bail in the Worcester County House of Corrections.
We’ve already written here a number of times about our concern that Remillard was inappropriately placed at Templeton due to his apparently high level of dangerousness, and was not under sufficiently close supervision while there. However, given that Remillard is himself intellectually disabled, it seems to us that the Worcester County House of Corrections is an equally inappropriate place for this 22-year-old man.
Bonnie Valade is the mother of Tony Welcome, a Templeton resident who has himself had some previous scrapes with the criminal justice system and spent time at the same county jail facility now housing Anthony Remillard. She maintains that jail was wrong for her son, who she said was abused there, and will be equally wrong for Remillard. In an email, Valade had this to say:
My son was badly beaten (at the Worcester County House of Corrections) simply because he put his arm around an inmate saying ‘hello.’ The other inmates took everything we brought for him including his radio. He was sexually abused. They put him in a suicide cell just to keep him away from the population. If anyone knows about a suicide cell…it contains nothing not even clothes, only their underwear.
People with intellectual disabilities need clinical and other therapeutic services. They don’t tend to receive those services when they end up in correctional facilities. And they do end up in correctional facilities more often, it seems, than people of normal intelligence.
A recent article on the website Disabled-World.com notes that intellectually disabled people constitute “a small but growing percentage” of suspects and offenders within the American criminal justice system. While they comprise between 2 and 3 percent of the general population in the country, they represent between 4 and 10 percent of the population in prison and an even larger portion of the population in juvenile facilities and jails.
Intellectually disabled people like Anthony Remillard and Tony Welcome need to be in places that provide them with supportive supervision, structure, and security. In many key respects, prisons provide none of those things. It’s hard to imagine that the behavioral issues that Anthony Remillard apparently had that led to the alleged assault on Dennis Perry are going to be dealt with in a positive way where he is now. And the fact that he has been found competent by a judge to stand trial in the alleged fatal assault means he could end up in prison for the rest of his life.
As has been pointed out by others in this case, the system failed Dennis Perry, and now it is failing Anthony Remillard. In both cases, it does not appear that sufficient supportive supervision, structure, or security were or are being provided.
Unfortunately, we see the potential for more of these systemic failures as Massachusetts and many other states continue to cut staffing at facilities such as Templeton, which currently meet strict federal standards of care. We’ve asked for a legislative hearing to examine, among other things, whether a major phase-down in staffing at Templeton in recent years resulted in the apparent failure to adequately supervise Remillard there.
Templeton and countless other facilities like it are being closed around the country in the name of deinstitutionalization. The closure process has not resulted in better lives for everyone, however. We are creating a largely privatized system of care in this country that in many respects provides less supervision, structure, and security than before.
Even the most ardent proponents of privatized, community-based care acknowledge that the community system isn’t working very well. In a recent op-ed piece, the president of the Massachusetts Association of Developmental Disabilities Providers, referred to the “funding disaster that has governed private programs” that now serve most of the people with disabilities in the state. The quality of the care provided by these private programs reflects that funding disaster. The programs are rife with poorly trained and poorly compensated staff and with the consequent problem of abuse and neglect.
And what then happens to the Anthony Remillard’s who are caught up in a system of care that cannot adequately serve them or protect others from them? In more and more instances, they end up in a much worse institutional system — the prison system.
It is now well known that deinstitutionalization of the mentally ill since the 1960’s has led to a continued increase in the population of mentally ill people in the nation’s prison system. We are only starting to realize that the same thing is happening with respect to people with intellectual disabilities.