The Controversy About Institutions

This page is reserved for information and materials about the controversy that raged in the late 1990s and early 2000s about the outcomes of the policy of increasing reliance on community living models for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. This trend was opposed by a small, isolated group of researchers who favored continuation of large scale segregated institutional models. The most influential strand of this controversy began in 1996 with the publication of:

Strauss, D., & Kastner, T. (1996).  Comparative Mortality of People with Mental Retardation in Institutions and the Community.  American Journal on Mental Retardation, 101, 1, 26-40.

This research was later discovered to be based entirely on erroneous counting of deaths in institution and community in California. Nonetheless, that original study spawned a dozen others, and they continue to be brought up in deinstitutionalization efforts all over America. 

The primary researchers were David Strauss, Theodore Kastner, and Kevin Walsh. They received significant funding from the Voice of the Retarded and institutional employee unions.

Their attacks on the body of work on deinstitutionalization outcomes were many and intense. The primary focus of their attacks was the work of the teams led by Dr. James Conroy.

On the issue of data sharing, the institutional proponents criticized Conroy for failing to provide raw data that was protected by HIPPA, while they refused to share their data with the state of California that had granted them access in the first place. The California Department of Developmental Services kept a record of this recalicitrance, which can be viewed in three documents here:

1. Correspondence to and from Dr. Strauss in 1997

2. Information and articles from other researchers in 1997

3. Other correspondence and articles in 1997