The PJ Tatler

My Brother Ron

I read with interest Clayton Cramer’s post at PJM on deinstitutionalization, especially since I just spent the last couple of days reading the Kindle version of his terrific book My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill. I want to say that the book is a terrific history for those readers who want to learn more about how and why the mental hospitals were emptied out. One thing that puzzles me is that people often say (mainly on Internet chat boards) that it was Ronald Reagan who called the mental hospitals “snake pits” and emptied them, but I believe it was actually Robert Kennedy who called them that when he was touring Willowbrook State School for the mentally handicapped in New York. Anyway, My Brother Ron is a terrific read if you want to learn more about the laws and history of deinstitutionalization in the context of a personal story about Mr. Cramer’s brother. It is a personal, often tragic story that many people are dealing with around the country as they try to help mentally ill loved ones who no longer have anywhere to go. It may sound like a dream to civil libertarians, but it can be a nightmare for those living with the consequences of deinstitutionalization.