It is high time to lift the veil on the sordid history of state institutions


The cemetery is a harsh marker of the inhumane conditions of the sites

I would like to join Alex Green in his support for both a measure to fund a commission that would study the history of Massachusetts state institutions for the disabled and legislation that would make records of those facilities public. (“Understanding the Role Massachusetts Has Played in Both Development and Resistance to Eugenics,” Opinion, June 7). These institutions have long been closed, and the memory of the terrible conditions experienced by people with mental illnesses and developmental disabilities could easily fade from our collective memory.

As I walk through the beautiful woods near the old institutions, I often pass the cemetery of some of the people who lived at the Metropolitan State Hospital and Fernald State School. What I see are ugly cement blocks with numbers instead of the actual names of the people buried there.

Let us pay tribute to the people who lived (and in many cases died) in inhumane conditions. Thank you to Senator Mike Barrett and Representative Sean Garballey for introducing this important bill.

June Elizabeth Rowe


Access to documents is a moral imperative

Regarding Alex Green’s commentary on eugenics, there is a moral imperative to expose this sordid story.

State institutions for the disabled were places of long-term abuse, secret medical experimentation including radiation, and a deeply flawed social policy.

We strive, in the most appropriate way, to bring awareness to the millions of innocent victims of the Holocaust and slavery. Nor should there be anonymity for those who endured and died in state facilities, too often buried in unmarked graves, hidden in death as in life.

Family members absolutely deserve to know what happened to their loved ones. And identifying those who have been so mistreated is a way of conferring a belated degree of dignity and a way – fundamental to preventing the future repetition of such practices – of putting a human face on policies that oppress and reject people with disabilities.

bill henning


Boston Center for Independent Living



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