"Titicut Follies" (1967) is a once-banned documentary about the horrific treatment of prisoners at Bridgewater State Hospital

Originally published at: "Titicut Follies" (1967) is a once-banned documentary about the horrific treatment of prisoners at Bridgewater State Hospital | Boing Boing


I will probably not watch it, as I’m pretty aware of the barbaric and inhumane treatment of the mentally ill in this country. I’m sure this is probably even worse than I can imagine, but I think my own mental health would be better served by not watching it.


I’ve seen it. It’s depressing.

Growing up in New England we knew about several abandoned mental institutions you could sneak into. The story passed around was that the movie led to their closure but I think it was the Reagan era cuts that closed most of them.


I didn’t know it was banned. I’ve seen it at least once, probably between '65 and '69 when I was in college. It’s pretty hard to watch.


Horrifying things still go on. My sister (who was nonverbal and severely developmentally delayed) was in a large institution (not Belchertown), where she was abused. This was in the late 80s/early 90s. My family got her out of that (now closed) instutution, only to see her further abused in a group home (tied to a chair for hours in order to stop her ‘wandering’ around the house). In 2005 she died suddenly in her sleep (at age 42) and (despite our best efforts) we have never received a satisfactory answer to her cause of death.

Additionally, the Judge Rotenberg Center, was one place that we considered when looking for residential care (back in the 80s as the caregiving was overwhelming my family) and my parents were horrified by that center’s willingness to use electric shocks as a means of controlling their residents. Even the state-run places where my sister was physically (and probably sexually) abused were better choices then that place. And the JRC is still open and it is supported by many Massachusetts legislators (including our former state representative).

For more information: Disability Rights Center and a WBUR report. Their Wikipedia page is pretty sanitized for public consumption (as are their own web and facebook pages), so the extent of the center’s inhumanity goes a bit unnoticed.

Sorry for the long post, but the abuse of the most vulnerable among us still goes on, and my family has worked for decades against it. It’s a lonely and dispiriting fight.

P.S. All of Fred Wiseman’s documentaries (from High School in the '60s through City Hall last year) are fascinating pieces of captured life and time, and Titicut Follies is no exception.


I’m so sorry about what happened to your sister, and thus to your family too. I know this horror too, with two family members similarly abused. Thank you for fighting this good fight.


Good interview with Wiseman:


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