Abstract

Farview State Hospital was Pennsylvania's designated mental institution for the “criminally insane” from 1909 to 1995. During that time, it was frequently regarded as the state's worst institution in terms of general conditions and rehabilitation/treatment for inmates. The institution also endured several major scandals that exposed its brutal living conditions to the public. Analysis of Farview's long history (including several failed attempts to establish the hospital in the nineteenth century) lets us see the consequences of decisions made in the formative years of the institution. This article identifies the origins of these trends, controversies, and inmate conditions at Farview and places them in the larger world of transformations of attitudes toward mental health and disability, criminal justice, and institutionalization in Pennsylvania in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

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