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In 2001, the General Accounting Office estimated that only about 5% of the workers in work activity centers left to enter integrated employment settings. They may or may not have received minimum wage or better in those settings.

Work equipment
Photo courtesy Hank Bersani Ph.D
People working in a factory
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D.

In 1973, and 1974, the practice of unpaid work in institutions was successfully challenged in the courts. In three separate court cases in Washington, D.C., Iowa and Maine, the courts ruled that unpaid resident labor in institutions is unconstitutional under the Thirteenth Amendment which prohibits involuntary servitude (peonage).

The President's Committee made note of the irony that people who were working in institutions were somehow seen as incapable of working in the community.  "One of the principal arguments that remains unanswered is why anyone capable of working in an institution cannot be gainfully employed, at least in a sheltered setting." For instance, at least two states, New York and New Jersey, employed significant numbers of former residents at institutions while providing them with transitional living arrangements elsewhere. One of the unanticipated results of the court cases was that many residents were left without work and without individualized treatment programs with vocational training. In other words, they were made idle and not always moved into the community.

people at tables
Photo courtesy William Bronston, M.D.
Wooden stairway
Photo courtesy Hank Bersani Ph.D