Best of #StateReads: Special Interests, Politics Delay Changes After Sandusky Scandal

This week's collection of #StateReads includes an examination at what derailed child advocacy improvements in Pennsylvania following the Jerry Sandusky scandal, an investigation into the 15 percent of homicides in Washington, D.C. that have gone unsolved and a look at a region in Utah that contains as much as 80 percent of the state's homeless population.

These examples of extraordinary journalism about state government were recommended in tweets using the #StateReads hashtag on Twitter and in email submissions to dvock@stateline.org.

“Politics, special interest groups delay child advocacy improvements: special report” – The Patriot News

When the Jerry Sandusky scandal came to light in 2011, unsettling decades of history at Penn State University, there was no shortage of calls for changing how the state handles child protection and advocacy. But as The Patriot News' Jan Murphy (@JanMurphy) reports, long after the scandal erupted, the state legislature has done little to address shortcomings many say the Sandusky affair uncovered. There's a task force designed to study what laws can be strengthened, but little else to show for the legislature's efforts. And many say special interests, politics and a general lack of leadership are to blame: “This has to be a teachable moment for Pennsylvania,” Jennifer Storm, Dauphin County victim/witness assistance office director, told the paper. “If we don't make it a teachable moment, then shame on every single person involved.” 

“D.C. homicides: In 15 percent of closed cases, no charges and no arrests” – The Washington Post

Nearly 200 of the 2,300 homicides in Washington, D.C. from 2000 to 2011 have been closed and considered “solved” by the police department despite the fact that no arrest was ever made in the investigation, according to a report from The Washington Post's Cheryl W. Thompson (@cherylwt). That 15 percent rate of “administrative” case closings is counted the same as an arrest in the department's statistics for measuring performance by detectives and police chiefs, the Post reports, even though some victims' families were never told the investigation had ended.

“210 Rio Grande: The epicenter for Utah's homeless” – The Deseret News 

Thousands of homeless people in Utah call one region of the state home, and within the Wasatch Front, there's one address that is seen as the “epicenter for the city's homeless”: 210 Rio Grande. With a soup kitchen and a homeless shelter nearby, that's where many of the city's homeless congregate, as The Deseret News' Emily Morgan (@DNewsCrimeTeam) reports, “to seek shelter, sustenance or a listening ear.” The paper looks at what forced many of the people there into homelessness in the first place, and what city and state officials are doing to help them. As Morgan reports: “The people, their stories and situations vary, but all spoke on a recent weekday of the circumstances that brought them here and of the hope that those circumstances will change.”

“Florida's Dozier School For Boys: A True Horror Story” – National Public Radio

For more than a decade, hundreds of men have told of abuse and beatings they suffered at a boys' school in the small Florida panhandle town of Mariana in the 1950s and 1960s. As National Public Radio's Greg Allen (@gallennpr) reports, the “notorious, state-run” Dozier School for Boys is receiving new attention after Florida officials allowed victims, along with their advocates, researchers and relatives, access to the school grounds where as many as 80 boys died over the years, many of whom whose remains were never found. Now, many are looking for answers an apology and compensation from the state.

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