WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Justice Department today announced a settlement agreement with the State of New Jersey regarding conditions and services at the Woodbridge Developmental Center, a state-operated institution housing approximately 500 people with developmental disabilities.
The Agreement, which was filed in the U.S. District Court in Trenton, requires the state to protect residents from harm and improve constitutionally-required services in the areas of psychology, psychiatry, health care, and nutritional and physical management. The Agreement also requires the state to serve Woodbridge residents in the most integrated setting appropriate to meet their individualized needs. This aspect of the Agreement is significant because it involves enforcement of the Supreme Court’s 1999 decision, Olmstead v. L.C. In Olmstead, the Court held that segregation of persons with disabilities may constitute illegal discrimination when those persons can live in a more integrated setting. The Agreement will be monitored by a team of nationally recognized experts who have decades of experience caring for individuals with developmental disabilities.
“Protecting individuals with developmental disabilities is a critical part of our mission,” said Bradley J. Schlozman, Acting Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. “These individuals are among society’s most vulnerable, and the Justice Department is committed to ensuring that they receive the care and services they deserve.”
The Civil Rights Division reached a virtually identical settlement with New Jersey on August 2, 2004, regarding the New Lisbon Developmental Center. The Division has also resolved similar investigations of other institutions for persons with developmental disabilities in Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Tennessee, and Wisconsin. Investigations concerning facilities for persons with developmental disabilities are pending in Arkansas, California, Missouri, Texas and Washington.
Protecting the rights of institutionalized persons is a priority for the Justice Department. Since 2001, the Civil Rights Division has opened 56 investigations into the terms and conditions of confinement at 63 facilities including nursing homes, mental health facilities, residences for persons with developmental disabilities, juvenile justice facilities, and jails.
The text of the findings letter and additional information about the Special
Litigation Section of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division can be