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Anniversary of the Willowbrook State School Exposé

Monday, January 6, 2020

Anniversary of the Willowbrook State School Exposé 

Shows image of the Willowbrook State School

(Willowbrook State School, New York Public Library)

On this day in 1972, an investigative news report by Geraldo Rivera titled, “Willowbrook: The Last Disgrace,” was aired on local news stations in New York. This broadcast displayed horrible living conditions and exposed several instances of abuse and neglect at a state institution for people with developmental disabilities called Willowbrook. The program included heartbreaking scenes of severely mistreated individuals in an overcrowded facility, shocking viewers across the nation.

It was this broadcast that persuaded New York’s senior senator, Jacob Javits, to incorporate a Protection and Advocacy System in federal legislation, leading to the development of P&A agencies that exist across our nation today—this includes our very own Disability Rights South Dakota. Therefore, on the anniversary of this groundbreaking exposé, DRSD is reminded of just how important it is to continuously protect and advocate for disability rights in our community.

To view a clip from the original documentary, visit this websiteTo learn more about the P&A System, check out this video here.