What Tacony dungeon tells us about holes in safety net for mentally challenged adults


    The dank basement room in the Tacony section of Philadelphia where four weak and malnourished mentally disabled adults, one chained to the boiler, were found locked inside. (AP Photo/Ron Cortes, Pool)

    Hour 1

    The October 15th discovery in a dirt-floored sub-basement in the Tacony neighborhood of Philadelphia sickened and chilled the spines of even hardened cops and reporters: four intellectually disabled adults under blankets, one chained to a boiler, all locked in, malnourished, abused and filthy. Linda Ann Weston has been charged as the ringleader of a kidnapping ring that stole the benefit checks intended to support the four captives, and two men and Weston’s daughter have also been arrested and charged. News of the crimes, which gets worse with each day’s headlines, has reverberated around the city, state and world. Joining us to update us on this story’s sordid developments are two reporters with the Philadelphia Daily News: JULIE SHAW, the tabloid’s lead reporter on this story, and BARBARA LAKER, one half of the Daily News’ Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporting team along with Wendy Ruderman. The case also raises questions about the holes in the social safety net for mentally challenged adults that this case has exposed. Just last year, Pennsylvania passed the Adult Protective Services Act, which disability rights and advocates for the elderly and infirm hailed as a landmark victory. But Harrisburg lawmakers didn’t allocate any funding for it, so it’s a paper victory thus far. Joining us to explain this battle, and the struggle of those who care for and advocate on behalf of mentally challenged adults, is AUDREY ‘DEE’ COCCIA, executive director of Vision for EQuality, a disability rights advocacy group based in Philadelphia.

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    [audio: 102611_100630.mp3]

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