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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: California | Health, Housing, and Public Services
California Eugenics Program Sterilized 20,000: Influenced Hitler
California's eugenics program sterilized 20,000 people from 1909 - 1964. Charles Follett is 68 years old, was sterilized at age 15 by the ST of CA and is the first to ask for a public apology from the state. Camarillo State Mental Hospital in Ventura, CA experimented on mental patients in what amounts to human rights violations as well. I believe it is imperative that people speak out in first person about what they endured at the hands of CA's institutional history. I was held in MacLaren Hall in 1969 as an 8 yr old with other unwanted kids in an abusive heaven for pedophiles. CA's institutional history is a horrific sty of abuse and it is time this is discussed openly. Survivors even fear being locked up again for speaking out! This must be stopped. CA's must begin to repay those it experimented upon as minors.
On November 13, 2011, CBS News reported a story of significant importance. It was the story of Charles Follett. He was 15 when he was involuntarily sterilized in the CA eugenics program, basically to stop his genetic line. His mother had been institutionalized for alcoholism by her husband with whom she fought constantly and in time, Charles went through different relatives' homes and landed in an institution for children similar to the one I landed in in 1969. I was in MacLaren Hall in Los Angeles County in 1969 as an 8 year old due to my parents' crimes. Four years after the CA eugenics program ceased.
The news report about Charles is available at http://sacramento.cbslocal.com/2011/11/10/the-life-penalty-sterilizing-california/
The article says Charles is the first to come forward of the 20,000 sterilized, asking for a personal apology and reparations. I was the first person to complain and ask for a personal and group apology of those contained at Mac Hall, as well. I have yet to see that apology or any reparations, alike Charles. It is hard to get the public to look at these dark issues of human abuse, but if we do not look, we are doomed to repeat them, which is my impetus in bringing these issues out into the light.
I wrote the first book about MacLaren Hall (http://www.amazon.com/American-Protection-History-MacLaren-ebook/dp/B004JKMV0E) which was open from 1940's-2003, and have also written the first book ever about the women who were committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital (http://www.kirstenanderberg.com) which was open from 1936-1997, with 7,000 patients at a time living there. Over and over, I see women and children victimized, in addition to poor people being victimized, in CA's institutional history.
Camarillo State Mental Hospital conducted mental experiments on innocent people which amounts to human rights violations, there is no way around that reality, though its past administration, the State of CA, and previous workers will try to deny that fact. There is little to no difference that I can discern between Nazi doctors experimenting on Jewish hostages and the shoving of ice picks, literally ice picks, not medical equipment, up people's eyelids to puncture the brain's cortex as lobotomy experiments. The man who founded lobotomies literally used the ice picks from his kitchen drawer and when the AMA found out what he was doing, some doctors fainted at his demonstration of his technique and his medical license was immediately revoked but not before 40,000 people had been given these lobotomies! How is that not Nazi-ish experimentation on vulnerable portions of society?!
What is even worse is there is almost nothing written about this. I have published more articles and books on these crimes than anyone I can find, and I am wondering why Charles Follett is the only one, out of 20,000 survivors, who has come forward re this sterilization program. I think part of it is stigma, you do not want to be stigmatized. And since institutionalization is stigmatic, most barely made it through the institutionalization, so to revisit it to tell the story is too traumatic. The State of CA refuses to offer any sort of free counseling for survivors of its own human rights violations, so most just suffer in silence. I am one of the very few who decided the stigma was not worth keeping me silent and decided I would scream about what happened in Mac Hall to my death, not be silent.
I believe we are finally getting far enough away from some of these serious human rights violations for the survivors to have had time to come to terms with some of it, to a level of being able to speak out about what happened. I believe we will see more and more survivors of institutional abuse come forward in the years to come, and I believe my work will only be a small beginning to this new enlightenment, along with the work of others such as Charles Follett. It is important that these stories be told in FIRST PERSON.
In the past, the only people telling the history of many of these institutions was the administration and the State. That is a biased view of what went on. The people held in these institutions themselves need to be empowered to speak up. I am hoping by me being a loud mouth, I can help inspire others to shed the fear of stigma and even retribution and to tell what happened. When Wilma Wilson wrote her tale of being committed to Camarillo State Mental Hospital in 1939 for 4 months for alcoholism, in her classic out of print book They Call Them Camisoles, she said people warned her they would put her back into Camarillo if she dared write about what she saw in there. People are literally afraid they will be locked up again, if they speak about what they saw!!!!
I have asked the Los Angeles County Board and the State of CA to lift the Statue of Limitations (SOL) for CA's institutional past abuses to no avail. They will life the SOL for the Catholic priest scandal, but that did not make them pay. Them lifting the SOL on their own abuses they will need to compensate for is a much harder road to sell. In all of this abuse, of hundreds of thousands of people in CA's institutions, held against their wills, the records have been destroyed to protect the state and workers. I have not met anyone from Mac Hall who has been able to get their medical records from Mac Hall, for instance. HIDDEN is the key strategy for CA in all this.
So, I am just here to remind everyone that these tragedies of institutions existed in the past and there are still institutions hidden at the edges of towns all over the U.S. and the world. Institutions breed abuse if for no other reason than they are hidden. Often the guise of "patient confidentiality" is used by the institutions to keep up the curtain of secrecy to further abuse as well. It is very important that we look at this. If you want to find a very high level of human rights violations played out upon people in poverty, all warehoused in one place, go to your nearest mental hospital or asylum. Go to your nearest child protection institution. I guarantee you will find abuse there.
Not enough beds for all the women in Camarillo St Mental Hospital, as this pic from 1941 shows. They would line women up sitting in chairs in between rows of beds! The other picture is from the inside of a patient room at abandoned Cam St Mental Asylum...taken by KAnderberg in 2010.