Muscatatuck: The End of an Era


The last residents left Muscatatuck State Developmental Center in 2005. The institution’s 68 buildings on 800 acres in Butlerville were turned over to the Indiana National Guard for homeland security training. The institution had been established 85 years prior as the Indiana Farm Colony for Feeble-Minded Youth.  Over the decades, more than 8,000 adults and children lived there. The Indiana Disability History Project has interviewed family members, ex-residents, employees, and government officials about their experiences at Muscatatuck.  Through our collection’s video-recorded oral history and newly digitized audio interviews from 2003-2005, this online exhibit looks back at the end of an era.

Events Leading to the Closure

“We first came into Indiana, myself with a team of attorneys, to New Castle within 24 hours after the news story broke.” Sue Gant was an expert with the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ). The televised expose of abuse at New Castle State Developmental Center was aired in early May of 1997. After their visit to New Castle, the DOJ began looking at Indiana’s two other institutions housing people with intellectual disabilities, Muscatatuck and Fort Wayne State Developmental Centers.

Sue Gant was also among the federal officials who conducted an on-site investigation in October 1998 at Muscatatuck. Randy Krieble of Indiana's Family and Social Service Administration worked with the DOJ delegation. “They wrote a report and filed a lawsuit in federal court that Indiana was violating the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act.”

Sue Beecher worked for Indiana Protection & Advocacy, where she was hired in 1998 as an Advocate for Muscatatuck residents. “My supervisor and I walked onto a unit and 12 of 14 people in that unit had noticeable bruises, black eyes, it was horrifying,” Sue attests, “and none of those injuries were recorded or documented.”

In 1999, the Center lost its Medicaid certification and associated federal funding. Indiana came to an agreement with the DOJ and had a plan to make corrections for the small resident population that remained. However, accusations of patient abuse and loss of revenue coupled with substantial maintenance expenses converged to spell the end. On April 19, 2001, Governor Frank O’Bannon announced that Muscatatuck would shut down two years later. The institution that had opened its doors in 1920 would not close them until 2005. In the meantime, there was work to be done.

Featured Videos

Sue Gant - Planning for the Closure of Muscatatuck State Developmental Center

Dr. Sue Gant has 40 plus years of working in the disability field. As an expert with the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, Special Litigation, Dr. Gant spent…

Sue Beecher - "Mandated to Close"

“I came back on Monday and one of the clients had a broken limb and nobody knew how it had occurred,” explains Sue Beecher of a visit to Muscatatuck State Developmental…

Randy Krieble - A Glimpse Inside Muscatutuck State Developmental Center

It was a "stark" and "demoralizing" environment. From 1977 to 1980, Randy Krieble worked at Muscatatuck State Hospital and Training Center, as it was known at the time. In…

Events Leading to the Closure