Never Go Back

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Through tragedy to triumph, we’ll never go back.

Pennhurst. The fabled site of a new birth of freedom for persons with disabilities. Located in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Pennhurst was created in 1908 for the detention of persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities. The first residents of Pennhurst literally built the campus, brick by brick. Over the course of the institution's near-century of operation, they and some ten thousand other residents would manage every other aspect of Pennhurst's operation—unpaid and unable to leave. 

Fast forward to revelations of what Pennhurst became -- a place of gross neglect and abuse that shocked the conscience.

Two Federal District Court rulings in the 1970s declared that the "forced institutional confinement of mentally retarded citizens" was unconstitutional and that the right to education must be recognized for all persons. Landmark rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court set national precedents at Pennhurst, now regarded as the epicenter for the modern disability rights movement. A reminder of the dangers of classifying persons as "the other," Pennhurst's closure in 1987 was a model for de-institutionalization efforts across the world. 

PAR's members welcomed Pennhurst residents and made the dream of community living a reality for those who had been neglected and abused during their decades of institutionalization at the state institution. It was not easy. But PAR members made it happen!