Monday, September 13, 2010

Pennhurst State School & Hospital

The Pennhurst facility in Spring City, Pennsylvania has become synonymous with an institute of fear, though the hospital's original intentions were to do help, not harm.

The institution originally opened up in 1908 and was a home and school for those with mental and physical abnormalities. Most of the patients were children, but ages ranged up past 70 years old.

From the initial opening of Pennhurst many had their doubts it would be successful. For starters the institute quickly became overcrowded, others were appalled at the methods used to control unruly patients, but most turned a blind eye to the warehousing of those with mental and physical deformities. That quietly changed in 1968 when a Philadelphia newscaster would shed much light on the atrocities that were taken place behind closed doors. Viewers witnessed disturbing images of multiple patients twitching, rocking back and forth, and pacing relentlessly, while also encountering grown adults in large cribs, limbs bound and strapped to the bars. These disturbing images embedded themselves in the viewer's mind and began to raise awareness, and lot's of questions as to how these members of our society were really being helped.

The expose helped to play a major role in the eventual closing of Pennhurst in 1987. Since than risk takers have been facing heavy fines and exposure to deadly asbestos just to get an inside look at this landmark institution, which played a key role in a civil rights movement for those with disabilities.

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