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date: 27 October 2021

Abstract and Keywords

The institution or asylum in North America was established as a mechanism for confining, controlling, and containing groups of individuals classified and labeled as mentally ill or intellectually disabled and defined as deviant, defective, or delinquent. These congregate facilities, established both for the protection of the individuals housed there and for the simultaneous protection of society from those same people, developed into massive structures designed to accommodate thousands of residents/patients/inmates. The rationale behind the rapid rise of the institution throughout the nineteenth and into the mid-twentieth centuries paralleled the growth of modern medicine and psychiatry. By the 1950s, institutions housed hundreds of thousands of individuals. Yet by the start of the twenty-first century, the institutional model had been intellectually discredited, and these facilities had been all but abandoned. This rather astounding demise mirrored broader social, scientific, and medical trends.

Keywords: mental illness, intellectual disability, institution/asylum, sterilization, treatment

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