Former workshop employee ‘looks forward’ to work now

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — After a federal investigation found disabled Rhode Islanders were working long hours for criminally low wages, a new settlement aims to get better jobs for those individuals.

The Target 12 Investigators unveiled last year that the Birch Vocational School and a sheltered workshop called Training Thru Placement, or TTP, was being investigated for violating the rights of those with developmental and intellectual disabilities.

The statewide settlement reached Tuesday requires the state to give employment to 3,250 disabled residents in a traditional work setting.

Steven Porcelli worked at TTP for 30 years making less than $2.00 an hour. He now has a new job making minimum wage and can finally say that he’s happy with his working situation.

“I’m doing computer work actually,” he said. “I look forward to going to work now, it’s a new adventure.”

The U.S. Justice Department found disabled students at the Birch School performed manual labor, including bagging and labeling items for unidentified local companies, for as little as 14 cents an hour. The investigation also showed the program failed to transition those individuals into the workforce.

“It wasn’t good, I mean we could’ve been doing more with our life, but we just didn’t have the chance,” Porcelli added.

The new settlement is a ten-year plan that will be reviewed regularly.

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