Advocates for the mentally ill hope that public outrage over a Kansas couple accused of abusing patients at their residential care facility will force officials to strengthen state laws to protect the disabled, reports the Associated Press. Federal prosecutors last week charged Arlan Kaufman, 68, and wife, Linda, 61, with forcing mentally ill adults under their care to work on their farm in the nude in 1999. They were charged under a law that makes it illegal to hold or sell another person into “any condition of involuntary servitude,” which is prohibited by the 13th Amendment banning slavery. Violators can get up to 20 years in prison. Authorities allege that the Kaufmans used a stun gun to shock one resident on his stomach, testicles, and feet in front of other residents and punished residents by taking away their clothes. The couple’s attorney, James Fletcher, has said his clients are not guilty.
Rocky Nichols of the Kansas Advocacy and Protective Services said the state should change a law that allows guardians for the mentally ill to serve as their therapist – a clear conflict of interest. Nichols said his organization received a report from a mentally disabled woman at the Kaufmans’ home who said her guardian and therapist had sexually abused her for years. The agency got an emergency order the same day to suspend the Kaufmans’ guardianship authority and removed the woman from the home.