A Special Hell: Institutional Life in Alberta's Eugenic by Claudia Malacrida

By Claudia Malacrida

Utilizing infrequent interviews with former inmates and employees, institutional documentation, and governmental information, Claudia Malacrida illuminates the darkish historical past of the remedy of “mentally faulty” youngsters and adults in twentieth-century Alberta. concentrating on the Michener Centre in crimson Deer, one of many final such amenities working in Canada, a different Hell is a sobering account of the relationship among institutionalization and eugenics.

Malacrida explains how separating the Michener Centre’s citizens from their groups served as a sort of passive eugenics that complemented the energetic eugenics software of the Alberta Eugenics Board. rather than receiving an schooling, inmates labored for very little pay – occasionally in houses and companies in pink Deer – less than the guise of vocational rehabilitation. The luck of this version led to large institutional development, power crowding, and bad dwelling stipulations that integrated either regimen and impressive abuse.

Combining the robust testimony of survivors with a close research of the institutional impulses at paintings on the Michener Centre, a unique Hell is vital studying for these drawn to the annoying earlier and troubling way forward for the institutional therapy of individuals with disabilities.

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The advent of psychology and the use of IQ testing also contributed to the increasing belief that degeneracy was rampant; the widespread IQ testing of army recruits in 1917 and 1918 caused a public uproar when it became known that a large number of recruits identified by IQ testing as defective had indeed been passing as normal (Gould, 1981; Trent, 1994). However, the new sciences of demography, psychology, and epidemiology did more than simply outline the breadth of social problems; instead, demographic findings were combined with other scientific developments in biology and genetics in ways that attributed the problems of poverty, ill health, and poor education to hereditary rather than social causes.

In turn, this elevated status undoubtedly aided in legitimating the institution and provided evidence for outsiders that the staff at the Michener Centre were competent professionals, trained to judge, label, and treat abnormal individuals. It is worth noting that this trend toward certification did not necessarily translate into a truly highly trained or more compassionate professional workforce. In his provincially mandated review of mental health services Dr William Blair noted that 100 to 130 MDNs were being trained each year by one trainer who had no training beyond her or his own MDN certificate; the MDN program was discontinued as the review found it to be little more than an enhanced orientation program (Blair, 1969).

These were also among the fiercest proponents of the larger, more centralized institutions (Trent, 1994). In addition to superintendents, specially trained nurses and caregivers developed professional status parallel to the development of institutions; for example, PTS offered its own two-year in-house postsecondary training to confer graduates with the designation of mental deficiency nurse (MDN). The growth of professional bodies, such as those for institutional superintendents and MDNs, relied on the institutions’ capacities to categorize people as morons, imbeciles, and mental defectives, in turn producing an increasing demand for specialized, professional services.

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