Willowbrook State School demonstrates how bad institutionalism can be. Children in Willowbrook were overcrowded due to their being 6,000 children in an institution designed for 4,000. Cuts to the funding for the school led to the school becoming massively understaffed resulting in the children becoming uncared for due to a lack of workers and resources. As a result the children at Willowbrook were forced to live in terrible conditions worse than those most prisons.
These terrible conditions were allowed to persist for two main reasons. The first is that being mentally disabled children, those suffering from the horrible conditions at Willowbrook were incapable of advocating for improved conditions, thus nothing changed until outside individuals finally found out about the conditions and tried to do something about them. Secondly, those used to the system had come to consider the conditions normal and thus resisted attempts to change them. Even after more staff was hired for the school, new employees were prevented from making changes to the system that was in place.
Even before the living conditions reached their worst, Willowbrook treated the children there terribly. Children in willowbrook had a high chance to be infected by Hepatitis. This led to a study which purposefully inoculated children that recently came to Willowbrook with Hepatitis to observe its effects and to study how it spreads. This was later viewed as a highly unethical experiment as it raised a high chance for a disease into a 100% chance and had no possible benefit for the children. The high chance of contracting Hepatitis all shows that conditions were not very good even in the earlier years of the institution.
Willowbrook is a reminder that if institutionalism is going to happen it needs to be carefully observed and never allowed to remove the humanity of those it is supposed to be helping. It is also a good lesson in that people within a system often cannot see its faults no matter how glaring.