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Public Protection, Private Abuse
The state pays for-profit companies to closely supervise dangerous developmentally disabled people in the community. While the costly program does protect the public in many cases -- most of the clients are sex offenders -- it has left vulnerable adults at risk of abuse and neglect.

Howard's story
Listen to an interview with a Seattle mother who fought to get her son out of the Community Protection Program after he was molested by a housemate.

Mentally disabled preyed upon in state program
A state-funded program to guard dangerous developmentally disabled adults is keeping the public safer while putting clients at risk.
- Serious incidents involving clients
- Incidents involving the public

Molested and trapped in the system
Since his birth almost 28 years ago, Howard has needed his mother to fight for him in many ways. But one of her fiercest battles would be to free him from a state-funded program that was supposed to help him.

Edward sexually exploited by caregiver
The man paid to look after Edward later went to prison for forcing him to provide sexual favors over several months.

Two fractured ribs ... and a broken wrist for Jessica
For clients like Jessica, developmentally disabled with a lengthy history of violence, Community Protection seems like the perfect solution. But issues with caregivers can multiply the chances for violence -- both from and to such clients.

Anthony's story
Hear Anthony Bowen, his mother and his sister in their own words.

Lax oversight in state program
For-profit companies get millions of dollars from the state each year to supervise high-risk developmentally disabled adults -- and the money comes with insufficient oversight.

Man with child's mind housed with offender
His adoptive family took him in as an abused infant and kept him safe for years despite the challenges of raising a child whose brain was damaged by fetal alcohol exposure. When he needed more supervision as a young man, his parents entrusted him to a state-funded program, never imagining they might be putting their son at risk.


Struggling to manage the violent, predatory
The Community Protection Program is not always able to keep dangerous clients from hurting caregivers, or being a threat to the public. Local police agencies say they end up being the backup security for the most dangerous cases.

Childlike, abused Julie sent off to jail
Julie, both a victim and an aggressor, exemplifies the complex problems of the Community Protection Program. While her situation defies simple solutions, some say the system has failed her by using a punitive approach.

Man seen as threat quits the program
When dangerous clients leave the program, the state cuts off services -- and loses its ability to protect the community. "I don't want to go back there," one such client, Ken, said in an interview. "They kept my movie away from me. I'm watching the Incredible Hulk right now."

Co-workers see a young man 'waste away'
Former coworkers of a developmentally disabled man who was a client in the state-funded Community Protection Program want to know what led to his unexpected death in June. State officials refuse to even say whether he was in the program, citing privacy laws.

State program sacrifices clients' safety, critics say
Advocates say Washington's Community Protection Program too often sacrifices clients' safety in its effort to safeguard the public. They think Washington can learn from other states' approaches to the same problem.


Protection program to get federal scrutiny
Federal officials and state legislators are investigating reports of abuse, neglect and insufficient oversight in a state-run program which pays contractors an average of $93,000 per year per client to closely supervise dangerous developmentally disabled adults. (Nov. 24, 2005)

Social Services: Beyond intent
P-I Editorial: There's much more protecting to be done in the state's Community Protection Program. Developmentally disabled clients, workers who care for them and the public face serious risks from the program. (Nov. 27, 2005)

Bill would help mentally disabled in state 'protection' program
State lawmakers and advocates for the developmentally disabled are drafting legislation to safeguard the civil rights of clients in the publicly funded Community Protection Program. (Dec. 29, 2005)

State's DSHS: Encouraging signs
P-I Editorial: It took time for problems in the state's Community Protection Program to develop. The Legislature and the Department of Social and Health Services must move quickly to make changes. (Jan. 4, 2006)

Groups back proposal to fix program for the developmentally disabled
Advocacy groups and residential providers have rallied behind proposed legislation that would protect the civil rights of developmentally disabled adults referred to the state-funded Community Protection Program. (Jan. 9, 2006)

Critics balk at bills for troubled adults
Advocates want changes to proposed legislation aimed at safeguarding the civil rights of dangerous developmentally disabled adults in the state-funded Community Protection Program. (Feb. 4, 2006)

New law aims to halt abuse of disabled adults
A bill to help protect the civil rights of troubled developmentally disabled adults in the Community Protection Program was signed into law Wednesday. (March 30, 2006)


Reporter Ruth Teichroeb answered readers' questions about this report in a live chat Thursday, Nov. 17. Read the transcript.


The publicly funded Community Protection Program pays for-profit companies to supervise dangerous developmentally disabled people in their homes.

Who is eligible?

  • Must be a client of the Division of Developmental Disabilities.
  • Must be at least 18 years old.
  • Have been convicted of, charged with or have a history of sexual or violent crime such as rape, molestation, stalking, murder or arson.
  • Have an assessment completed by a qualified therapist that states that the person is at risk to re-offend.

    The investigation of the Community Protection Program was based on multiple public disclosure requests to the Department of Social and Health Services which led to the release of more than 12,000 pages of documents. That included incident reports, recertification reviews of residential providers, financial reports and policy documents.

    A P-I computer analysis of incident reports produced a detailed breakdown of the types of abuse, neglect and violence plaguing the program. Interviews were conducted over a seven-month period with clients, relatives, guardians, police, court officials, mental health professionals, frontline staff, state officials and others.

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