By Dave Altimari . . . A bill that would require long-term care facilities to check if prospective residents have a criminal history or are on the sex offender registry before they are admitted drew some heated opposition Wednesday from organizations representing providers and an advocate for abolishing the sex offender registry.
The bill is sponsored by State Sen. Saud Anwar, whose district includes East Windsor, home of the Fresh River Healthcare nursing home. Last May, Miguel Lopez, a convicted rapist and a registered sex offender in Massachusetts with a warrant out for his arrest at the time, allegedly locked a female employee in his room at the nursing home and tried to force her to perform oral sex. . . .
The bill would bar long-term care facilities from admitting people with a “disqualifying offense” without a waiver. Disqualifying offenses range from assault, rape and kidnapping to burglary, criminal mischief and trespassing.
Mag Morelli, president of LeadingAge Connecticut, an association representing not-for-profit provider organizations serving older adults, told the Public Health Committee during Wednesday’s public hearing that “from an implementation perspective, this proposal raises numerous concerns.” . . .
She suggested that the committee convene a work group to evaluate and address the concerns that led to the bill being raised rather than pass the proposal.
Others in opposition to the bill said that legislators were overreacting to an isolated incident and that the legislation as proposed would punish more people than it would help.
“The proposal is extremely overbroad and would potentially disqualify anyone, including a vulnerable or elderly person, from admission to a long-term care facility, nursing home, or an assisted living facility because they were convicted sometime in their life of certain offenses, even if such conviction occurred decades before,” said Deborah Del Prete Sullivan, legal counsel for the Office of the Chief Public Defender. . . .
At one point, Anwar and Cindy Prizio, executive director One Standard of Justice, an advocate for restorative justice practices and a critic of the sex offender registry, got into a heated argument about the bill after she called it “a public policy disaster in the making” during her testimony.
“Please don’t allow one sensational crime to turn good intentions into bad policy,” Prizio said. “We all want to protect our vulnerable populations. OSJ stands ready to provide help to the committee in developing an effective solution.”
Prizio said there’s no “need to create a new bill every time there is an isolated high-profile incident” and that the bill is unfair to a class of people who already have had their rights “sucked dry by the system.”