At eleven years old, Lois Curtis became an out-patient at Georgia Regional Hospital for her cognitive and developmental disabilities. She wound up being confined and sedated in mental institutions until she was 27 when Atlanta’s Legal Aid Society sued Georgia’s Human Services Commissioner George Olmstead. The case of Olmstead vs L.C. went all the way to the Supreme Court and Lois Curtis won in a 6 to 3 decision in 1999. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote, “Confinement in an institution severely diminishes the everyday life activities of individuals, including family relations, social contacts, work options, economic independence, educational advancement and cultural enrichment.” The case has been called the “Brown vs Board of Education” for disability rights.
Recorded at Socialism 2022
Liat Ben-Moshe is an assistant professor of criminology, law and justice at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Her articles appear primarily in academic journals. She is the author of Decarcerating Disability: Deinstitutionalization and Prison Abolition.