But what happened in these walls was a century of dehumanization, maltreatment, and abuse…
…leading to a federal court decision that condemned the “long-prevailing…principle of segregation” that led to the rise of such institutions.
We have continued as a society to live in ignorance of this shameful history, and thus the idea of building an institution as a “safe place” to put away those with disabilities resurfaces again and again.
But the story of Pineland and those who endured that place must be told and heard by those who would revive these flawed policies, and by those of us who would prefer to look away.
After the fights and struggles that led to the Consent Decree and an understanding of the failures of Pineland, new systems were designed that gave people with developmental disabilities services in their homes and communities.
Work has continued to give people with developmental disabilities more choices, more freedoms, and more say in their lives.
But despite all of the victories won, even today there are dangers of institutions returning. Some people are concerned that people with developmental disabilities aren’t safe, and their solutions are to put them in a place of “safety” - language that echoes the same calls for institutions from a century ago or more.
This exhibit and the language and pictures in it can be hard to look at - but it is our way of helping us learn from the terrible things that happened in the past - because if we forget these lessons we are at risk of repeating them.
It was like going to a strange place.
I had to get used to the place.
Vicki Schad(voiceover): Because you never,
never would have expected what actually happened up there, you know, with the abuse and all that, that would never be anything that we would ever have exposed him to if we’d known.
As we drove around the grounds of Pineland, and when you first approached Pineland it really looked like a prep school – with the administration building in front, very nice lawns – no flowers, though – but it looked like a prep school. But as you got into Pineland you knew perfectly well – it wasn’t a prep school.
She said “I got a boy here” and I started crying. She said “I’ll give you something to cry for,” she said, “Get in here!” and she was screeching, hollering was like she was crazy. That bothered me something awful I said “my land, what is this?”
Jim: It wasn’t very good, in Pineland. I’ll tell you that. Food was no good, that’s for sure. They locked the door on me. I couldn’t go out.
I wasn’t safe there.
Some of them used to beat the patients up. Knock ’em black and blue, and scald you with hot water.
They did what to your hair?
Shave your hair, bald-headed.
Yes they did if you run away. Yeah.
What else did they do?
They would shave your hair if you ran away?
They put you in that bathtub, put ice in it, and then strapped you.
So what they would do is, if the kid was bad, they might haul them in here, fill that with ice water?
Yeah put ice packs, ice packs on you, and then strap you and that don’t show. If they get your flesh cold enough, it doesn’t show.
Maryann (voiceover): It wasn’t a place that, you know, I wanted to be, and…I wanted to go back home, and I got to crying and everything, and they were going to put me in a straight jacket, and so I calmed down. And it was like a place that I’ve never, never seen before.
And they had a group of people who were treated as less than human. In fact, the standards there were less than the Feds required for dogs.
How could they beat you up with shoelaces?
Look, a big pile of shoelaces, tied them together in the middle and take hold of that and beat the hell right out of you.
What did they do?
They messed your face all up.
The shoe strings.
What did they put on the shoe strings? Just shoe strings?
Two or three or four shoe strings and…lace them right across the face.
I saw children underneath large play pens and people tied to chairs, people walking through the facility nude. It was, they were being hosed down.
I said they were going to take the teeth out with pliers, “They did that?”
I said, “They sure did”.
They said, “you can’t go and leave until you’ve had your tubes tied.” I said, “Okay, tie ’em.”
So I….so I got out.
But Mabel’s sister died the day after she was sterilized because of a blood clot in her lung. She was 24.
The beds were in a condition with about 36 beds all in a line up and sometimes you have to climb over the beds to get to the person because there’s only little aisleways.
When night time come, you know, and one of the worst things that happened was that the superintendents were leaving the building and all and leaving the kids all unattended and they had big guys upstairs coming down beating us up, you know and we were being abused.
Did anybody ever show you love and affection in those 10 years?
No. Nobody tucked you in at night? No, no, no. They’d come in and tuck us in with a strap.
Sometimes if you’re really, really out of it, you’d have to have three people to hold you down.
They’d give you a needle.
And if you did something wrong, there, this is what they would do:
Bring in bags because they were so rugged, you’d be in the middle and they’d be over here like this and they’ll go [crushing sound] squeeze.
You can really understand what normalization is when you think how abnormal things were at that time.
You loved it here. That’s what you think!
That’s what I think…well you didn’t? No. Why not?
Because you couldn’t go nowhere.
You couldn’t go off the state grounds.
I don’t like Pineland.
I like where I am.
To this day, I still cannot justify large congregate living. I can’t.
Well, does that mean you want to come back to live?
Yeah? You want to come back to Pineland?
No! I don’t, no I don’t. Oh my lord. I don’t want to come back here.
Maryann (voiceover): I was glad when it came the day for me to leave, because my experience – being there when I was 10, it was like – good, I’m not there anymore. I’m out on my own, I’m out in the community with my family and stuff. You know, I don’t have to go to bed when I’m told or line up to go outside during the winter, or you know. I was safe, you know, from what I was in Pineland.
Brought to you by the Maine Developmental Disabilities Council - committed to creating a Maine in which all people are valued and respected because we believe communities are stronger when everyone is included.