I had an effusive e-mail on Friday, from Stefan Lorimer, the talented young communications specialist who is leading our digital media strategy around the family movement. Did you know Geraldo Rivera did an expose of Willowbrook Institution, once the largest institution in the world? We were researching the beginnings of the parent advocacy movement and
the history of de-institutionalization and he had come across this reference.
This was not the Geraldo of trash tv but the investigative reporter who brought the horrible living conditions of institutions for people with intellectual disabilities to international attention in 1972 by sneaking into Willowbrook and producing, The Unforgotten. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k_sYn8DnlH4&feature=related
Less we think it couldn't happen here, British Columbia had its own institutions with conditions (overcrowding; poor sanitation; physical and sexual abuse) every bit as horrible. After several visits to Woodlands, Glendale and Tranquille, in the 1980's I tried unsuccessfully to bring Amnesty International in to investigate what I saw as political imprisonment for the crime of being perceived as having intellectual limitations. I wrote about the horrors of BC's institutions recently in a post titled, A Stain on Our History.
Thanks for the reminder Stefan. It's easy to forget where we've come from and where we need to make sure we don't return to.