Aluminum Industrial Shop.

Work Program in Early Years

. . . it does not seem that the IDD, in its early years, actively pursued a program of improving the functioning of its defective inmates. Perhaps this was because there was so much other work to do.

When the Commission for Mental Defectives took control in 1921, it inherited a physical plant with a peculiar distinction: although under construction for 27 years, it had never been finished, yet was already starting to crumble. With the new population of defectives, who could be assigned only to "the simpler processes," completion of the work begun 27 years ago was now more expensive, as it was necessary to bring in outside labor.

At long last, the wall was completed in 1926, replacing the original wooden stockade. The hospital, begun in 1914, was finally finished. (After a riot in 1923, the Commission altered the original hospital plans by adding 16 special cells for "psychopaths.") In addition, the Commission was able to complete the installation of plumbing in the north hall cells.

Thayer continued to work facility farms . . . as especially suitable training grounds for defectives that might be paroled to agricultural jobs. Thayer began using the term "Colony Farm" -- still so called today -- after the popular practice in use throughout the U.S. of isolating mentally retarded people in self-sustaining "colonies." . . . .

Legislation in 1923 authorized the establishment of prison industries at Napanoch. Thayer installed an aluminum shop where inmates spun aluminum on lathes and manufactured plates, cups, bowls, pitchers, steamers, and other marketable products-stamped with an Indian head and the words "Institution for Defective Delinquents" on the back or underside.

Other industrial programs were added over the years, supplying shoes, brooms, baskets, mattresses, clothing, sheet metal ware, and other goods for the institution as well as generating revenue through sales to other government agencies. In 1931, inmates were making highway signs for the State Department of Public Works and wooden lockers for the new prison at Attica.

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