Horrors of Institutions

The abuse and neglect that occurred in Willowbrook, Pennhurst, Polk, and White Haven (shown on previous pages) was not unique to those centers. Congregating people with disabilities in large facilities creates environments ripe for abuse. People are dehumanized and lose their freedom and rights.

More horrors in institutional settings…

Ladd Center in Rhode Island 1908 – 1994

 USA Today Story – 25 years after Ladd Center closed, R.I. still struggles to serve people with developmental disabilities

‘The Beast Is Dead’ The Ladd Center, 25 years after closing (4 mins)
Some People Who Lived at the Ladd Center… (2:55 mins)

Walter E. Fernald Developmental Center – Waltham, Massachusetts 1848-2014

Walter E Fernald Institute– a documentary (15 mins)

New Castle State Developmental Center in New Castle, Indiana

New Castle State Developmental Center Investigation WISH-TV8 – Part One (5 mins)

In 1997, WISH-TV secretly filmed resident abuse by employees inside New Castle State Developmental Center in New Castle, Indiana. Channel 8, the Indianapolis station affiliated with CBS, broadcast their footage as part of a series of seven investigative reports

Forest Haven Laurel, Maryland , operated by the District of Columbia. 1925-1991

Opened in 1925 as a farm-like institution and closed on October 14, 1991. Between 1989 and 1991, the Justice Department began to monitor deaths from aspiration pneumonia, a condition that can be caused by improper feeding procedures (e.g. feeding a patient who is lying down). There are also accounts of rampant physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the facility. Prior residents have reported being hit with “belts, switches, and baseball bats.” Missing teeth and other dental problems are commonly reported. Many of the residents who died were buried in a mass grave, unmarked until a headstone – noting 389 individuals – was erected by some of the patients’ families in 1987. Some of the graves have been uncovered by erosion.

Game Changer: Ricardo Thronton

Ricardo Thornton survived the notorious Forest Haven institution (outside of Washington, DC), a place he describes as a prison for people with intellectual disabilities. The residents were routinely hosed down, drugged and dressed only in diapers or sheets. Through the courage and skills that Ricardo developed through being a Special Olympics athlete, he helped shut down Forest Haven and went on to prove that people with intellectual disabilities can live lives full of love and leadership.

Alabama state institutions for people with mental illness and developmental disabilities
Bryce Hospital, Searcy Hospital, and Partlow State School and Hospital

The Legacy of Wyatt

Federal Judge Myron Thompson, Jr. ended Wyatt vs. Stickney, the longest-running mental health lawsuit in U.S. history. Commissioner Kathy Sawyer and Governor Bob Riley gave testimony in an open hearing and pledged to maintain the reforms and standards established by the 33-year Wyatt litigation. Judge Thompson used these words to describe the impact of the Wyatt case:

The enormity of what this case has accomplished cannot be overstated. The principles of humane treatment of people with mental illness and mental retardation embodied in this litigation have become part of the fabric of law in this country and, indeed, international law.

“There can be no legal or moral justification for the State of Alabama’s failing to afford adequate treatment for persons committed to its care from a medical standpoint. Furthermore, to deprive any citizen of his or her liberty upon the altruistic theory that the confinement is for humane therapeutic reasons and then fail to provide adequate treatment violates the very fundamentals of due process.”

The Judge identified 35 standards for adequate treatment for persons with mental disabilities in his order issued April 13, 1972. These standards included staffing, diet and nutrition, safety, physical plant adequacy, and many other features of protection. At the time of Judge Johnson’s ruling, Bryce Hospital had over 5,000 patients with only 3 Psychiatrists. Partlow, the state’s facility for persons with mental retardation had over 3,000 residents who also lived in overcrowded and inhumane conditions.

News Report on the Conditions at Rosewood State Hospital in Maryland

Throw Away the Key (53 minutes)

The Rosewood Center was an institution for people with developmental disabilities located on Rosewood Lane in Owings Mills, Maryland. Established in 1888 as the Asylum and Training School for the Feeble Minded, renamed the Rosewood State Hospital.  It was closed in 2009.

<Previous Page  

Information & Resources for People with Disabilities

%d bloggers like this: