DeJarnette’s patients were those whom he considered “defective.” This list included people with mental disorders and epilepsy, as well as alcoholics and even promiscuous individuals. He was of the opinion that such a practice would help preserve the integrity of society.
The doctor greatly admired Adolf Hitler and the Nazi policy of sterilization. He described the fascist regime as “beating us at our own game.”
He even went so far to write a poem, extolling the virtues of the correct “breeding” of people, and colleagues began calling him “DeJarnette Sterilization.” Most of his victims were poor, mainly African-Americans or Native Americans.
The goal of eugenics was to provide the world with a stronger race of people, and funding came from the federal government. Although Germany passed a law on protecting against genetically inferior descendants in 1933, Indiana was actually the first place to adopt the policy of eugenics in 1907.
People who supported this trend believed that these laws and measures should apply to immigrants, single mothers, people with disabilities, mental patients, and the poor.
The word “sanatorium” was considered offensive in the 1960s, so the hospital was renamed the DeJarnette Center for Human Development. In 1975, the DeJarnette complex was transformed into a children’s hospital after the Commonwealth of Virginia took control of the site. It became part of the state-managed healthcare system.
From 1981, the DeJarnette Center for Human Development began housing patients throughout the year, rather than sending them home at weekends and during the summer.
At the same time, the Western State Hospital’s Adolescent Unit closed down, and juvenile patients were transferred to the DeJarnette Center. A pool was built and used until 1987 when excessive insurance costs resulted in it being closed.
Unfortunately, in 1987, the stock markets crashed, and this had a negative impact on many programs funded by the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1996, the DeJarnette Center was relocated to a 48-bed facility located next to the Western State Hospital, and the original hospital was left abandoned.
In 2001, the new institution was renamed the Commonwealth Center for Children and Adolescents to avoid the associations between DeJarnette’s name and eugenics which was now seen as inhuman practice.
In 2004, discussions were held about demolishing the abandoned DeJarnette complex, and there were potential projects to build a shopping center and parking lot. However, the plans were not implemented because the number of prospective tenants was not high enough.
The old sanitorium is currently a popular destination among urban explorers, even though the abandoned building is in very poor condition. Please do check out erin wommack fantastic Flickr page
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