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Two decisions in the latter part of the decade came down clearly that institutions were no longer needed. The Pennhurst decision (Pennsylvania ARC v Pennhurst School and State Hospital) went even further and stated that keeping people with developmental disabilities isolated from society in institutions is a violation of their Fourteenth Amendment right to equal protection. Pennhurst closed in 1988.

The Plymouth Decree (Michigan ARC v Smith) resulted in all parties agreeing that all individuals with developmental disabilities can and should live in the more normalized environments of the community and do not require institutionalization. The Plymouth Decree was a commitment to the development of a comprehensive system of appropriate, less restrictive habilitation training and support services. Plymouth Regional Center closed in 1984.

Pennhurst
Photo courtesy Jim Conroy
US Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun (1908 – 1999) speaks about his impressions of state institutions dating back to the Pennhurst case.
Jim Conroy, Tom Gilhool, and Judith Gran describe how a number of threads came together in the Pennhurst Case – a journalist, a lieutenant governor who became a judge, state funding for demonstration projects, overcoming the resistance of some within the ARC movement, experienced lawyers, and stalwart families.