Friday, September 14, 2007

Does a worthy punishment exist?

Workers at a trucking company in East Butler discovered a body inside a burned out dumpster Friday evening. Police say the condition of the body is such that they can't even tell if it is a man or a woman. Police are asking anyone with information about a missing person in the area to call them at 724-284-8100.

Ritzert was forced to wear the lighter fluid-soaked T-shirt and was set on fire as he lay in a bathtub, police said. After Ritzert lost consciousness, Caldwell kicked him and put his foot on Ritzert's chest and neck for five to 10 minutes. The defendants (Tim Caldwell and Melissa Adams) then took Ritzert's body to a trash bin, where they set it on fire, police said.


Who does things like this? Where is the outcry when they do?

I read about this some time ago - 3 people began to live in the apartment paid for by social services with Ritzert about a year before the murder and refused to leave. Jason Michael Ritzert was a part of what we desperately want with the Community Care Choices Act. We want the right to live in the community. But we want that right with the support services we need we live our lives in freedom and safety.

Things equally horrible happen in institutions. They happen under the watchful eye of the same people who ignored Jason.
Summary of Rosewood Center Deficiencies Cited in OHCQ Survey
Released September 12, 2007 (a few excerpts)

Rosewood is not ensuring that complaints and allegations of abuse, neglect, mistreatment and injuries of unknown origin are promptly detected and reported and had documentation of thorough investigation for only 50 of 183 reported incidents reviewed by OHCQ.

• When an individual experienced numerous broken ribs on several occasions, Rosewood did not inform his guardian. An x-ray showed two fractured ribs after a Heimlich maneuver was performed while the individual was choking. Three weeks later, another x-ray revealed 9 possible fractured ribs that may have been of different ages. The resident again choked on food
about 6 weeks later, and again experienced four broken ribs. The family and guardian were not informed about any of these injuries.

• Staff who was supposed to provide 1:1 support for an individual with frequent seizures was found sleeping, too far away from the individual to be of assistance.

• Water drips out of equipment and onto food, including vegetables. Mold was found growing in the moist conditions, and water leaking onto floors poses a slip and fall risk.


So absolutely we need the Community Choices Act, but we also need the COMMUNITY TO CARE. How do we get the community at large to feel a responsibility that our most vulnerable citizens are not exposed to the horrors other people inflict upon them by their neglect or abuse? How do we recover the time when I was a child when everyone in the neighborhood knew everyone's business and everyone looked out after each other?

When I was 4 my mom became a widow. I remember feeling as if I had a whole load of people looking after me. We took in Sandra who was a foster child of 16 to help with the babysitting of me and my brother. I have good memories of that time because I was so surrounded with love.

My son is gregarious and well-liked. I imagine that if something happened to me - he too would be surrounded with love. But I worry. I have worried for all of his 24 years what will happen to him without me to protect him? I know all too well what places like Rosewood are like. And sadly I have become all too conscious of the hate crimes committed against people with disabilities in our communities when people live alone and in isolation.

How do we as people with disabilities stop being perceived as outsiders - as aliens - as people unworthy of life? How do we become an integral fabric of our communities?

How do we ferret out the people who are willing to abuse us? When 2 people burn a man to death they get punished, but what of all the people responsible for the atrocities at Rosewood - what punishment do they get? Does our society send a message that it is OK to treat us this way when we continue to refuse to close the institutions that continue to abuse us?

We need to live in our communities where people learn to be with us and us with them. We need to be a community of interdependent people who learn from each other the value of living. The Community Choices Act offers us that opportunity.

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