Broken Trust: A Cycle of Abuse

Broken Trust: A Cycle of Abuse

Producer/Director Sweta Vohra

The shocking images of children lying naked on the floor in front of feces-smeared walls at a state institution seemed impossible to forget. And the reaction to Geraldo Rivera’s 1972 news broadcast from the institution, the Willowbrook State School, was quick and severe. Lawsuits were filed, leading to a landmark settlement in which New York State agreed to shut down the Staten Island institution for children with developmental disabilities. It was a major civil rights victory that ultimately helped to end the warehousing of people with disabilities.

Under the settlement, the so-called Willowbrook class were assured high quality services and protection from harm for the rest of their lives. But a New York Times investigation reveals that the state failed to make good on its promise. Our reporter got access to a trove of documents that show some of those children faced the same cycle of abuse as adults living in a group home in the Bronx.

“The Weekly” investigates how and why the state failed to protect these residents, and what happens when society forgets about its most vulnerable.

[Join the conversation about @theweekly on Twitter and Instagram. #TheWeeklyNYT]

Benjamin Weiser covers the Manhattan federal courts for The New York Times, and he has long reported on the criminal justice system. Before joining The Times in 1997, he worked for 18 years at The Washington Post, where he received the George Polk Award for a 1983 series on life-and-death decisions in hospitals and the Livingston Award for a 1986 series on Washington’s juvenile justice system. He has been a finalist, either as an individual or in a team capacity, for the Pulitzer Prize three times.

[This episode will be available to Times subscribers in the U.S. on March 28.]

Senior Story Editors Dan Barry, Liz O. Baylen, and Liz Day
Director of Photography Victor Tadashi-Suarez
Video Editor David Herr
Associate Producer Lora Moftah

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