Former Fernald Residents Want Apology And Clean Records
They want their state records changed to correct what they feel are inaccuracies. They are also asking for unspecified compensation.
The men went to the office of Governor Mitt Romney and presented a petition to Commissioner of Mental Retardation Gerald J. Morrissey Jr., saying they represent thousands of people who were "wrongly" committed to the former Walter E. Fernald School for the Feebleminded and other institutions around the state.
"Maybe this will give them some relief and help them realize there's nothing to be ashamed about," said Fred Boyce, 63, who was institutionalized at Fernald from the time he was eight years old until he was released in 1961 at age 19.
The men are blaming an intelligence test that they say led to them being incorrectly labeled "feeble-minded" and confined at state facilities between the 1940s and 1960s. Some of those sent to state institutions designed to house people with mental retardation were sent there because they were runaways or had trouble in their own homes.
"It's an embarrassing thing to have in your record. I'm no moron, and I shouldn't have been at Fernald," said Joseph Almeida, whose father left him and his older brother at Fernald in 1951, primarily because they could not get along with their stepmother.
In recent years it has come to light that many of those housed at the institution were forced to work with little or no pay. Some were made to eat radioactive oatmeal in government-sponsored Cold War experiments.
Many details about the mistreatment of former Fernald residents have been revealed in the recently-released book "The State Boys Rebellion" by Michael D'Antonio.
Founded a dozen years before the American Civil War, Fernald Developmental Center is the oldest institution housing people with developmental disabilities in the Western Hemisphere. Governor Romney's recent attempts to close the aging facility have met with resistance from institution employees, and family members of those housed there.
While the men claim that they "should not have been" placed at the institutions because of incorrect IQ scores, many disability rights advocates and community living supporters have argued that nobody should have been placed at the institutions -- regardless of their IQ scores or labels.
Reproduced here under special arrangement
with Inclusion Daily Express
disability rights news service.