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March 14, 2014 | SOI General: Headquarters

The "Boys" in the Bunkhouse: Men With Intellectual Disabilities Triumph over Exploitation

By Lynn Aylward

The schoolhouse that became a prison.

An 8,000-word front page story in the New York Times tells a gripping and sometimes gruesome tale of several dozen men with intellectual disabilities who for over three decades endured servitude and abuse from their employers. The men rose at 3 a.m. every weekday in Atalissa, Iowa, worked grueling shifts doing unsavory work...and earned $65 a month. Some twenty of the men finally emerged from their virtual prison when a sister of one fought past rebuffs from several state agencies and contacted a reporter at The Des Moines Register. That happened in 2008--and since then the men won a settlement for back wages and are doing well-- so it is not breaking news. But the story is not well-known outside Iowa and it shakes any complacency that exclusion and maltreatment of people with ID is a mostly-solved challenge. Visit the NYT website for photos, videos, and an honor roll listing the names, ages, and current circumstances of "The Men of Atalissa."

About Lynn Aylward: I work in communications for Special Olympics.

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