Maintaining Liberty: A Caution against Neo Institutions


Gone are the days of what I like to call “classic asylums”. Society has spoken out against the abuses that occurred there; the image of people with psychological disabilities shackled to beds are a distant but haunting memory.

However, people with disabilities are facing a new threat: neo institutions. A neo institution is an institutional setting disguised as community living.

A nursing home is an institution.

A hospital is an institution.

Jail is an institution.

“Intentional communities” or neighborhoods where only people with disabilities are allowed to live, are institutions.

If freedoms are restricted enough, even a family home can be an institution.

The most insidious example of a neo institution that comes to mind in the present is the Judge Rotenberg Center in Canton, Massachusetts. JRC is advertised as a school for people with Autism and psychological disabilities. It claims to help with behavioral health.Photo of the JRC sign outside

The students at the JRC are punished by being electrocuted with GED shock devices, which the FDA has ruled inhumane to use on anyone, even dangerous criminals. However, Andre McCollins, a student at the JRC was shocked thirty-one times for refusing to take off his jacket. His mother and caregivers had no idea about their practices; they thought the JRC was just a regular school.

(To help the people with disabilities in the JRC, you can work with the Autistic Self Advocacy Network and use the hashtag #StopTheShock to spread awareness.)

Do not be afraid, but be vigilant against the signs of institutionalization. Here are some questions to help you maintain your freedom and recognize when it is being threatened.

Who is in charge of what you do every day? Do you get to make choices or do staff make choices for you?

Are you being treated with respect, or do you get mocked and bullied?

Do you feel safe in your home? Does anyone ever hurt you or make you feel afraid?

Are you allowed to leave when you want or do you have to stay on the premises?

If you have answered these questions, and you have realized that you are being institutionalized, or if you are unhappy with your living situation, please contact us at Able South Carolina and we can support you in transitioning into a home that suits you best. We are here to support all people with disabilities who want to live in the community and lead their own lives.

By, Grace Turmpower

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