Mentally Disabled Residents Forced to Fight

It's interesting that people who want to exercise authority over others (in careers like law enforcement and corrections) are often the wrong people to entrust with that kind of power. Case in point: Corpus Christi State School employees who forced "mentally disabled residents into late-night prize fights."

Authorities say vivid video footage captured on cellphone cameras shows staffers goading young mentally disabled male residents of the institution into physical altercations, then shoving them at each other until fights ensued.

How could one employee, much less a group of them, be so twisted as to tolerate this abusive behavior? Here's one explanation:

Some researchers believe that sadism has a genetic component, and that people who are biologically predisposed to it select jobs where they have authority over others' well-being.

The linked article discusses the "notorious" Zimbardo experiment at Stanford, where students playing the roles of prison guards quickly abused students playing the roles of inmates.

The abuse, Zimbardo theorized in his book The Lucifer Effect, couldn't have been innate. The "guards" were congenial, bright students from good families, who returned to their normal selves after being released from the study.

However you explain the behavior of the Corpus Christi State School employees, it's hard to believe ... and impossible to justify.

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    Reminds me of the 60s button: (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by oldpro on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 01:11:16 AM EST
    "Draft cops.  They're already violent."

    And in the 60s, many were.  Think '68 Chicago Dem convention...

    Going the other way now... (none / 0) (#11)
    by tokin librul on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 10:44:05 AM EST
    Civilian cop shops are actively recruiting ex-soldiers BECAUSE they're already accustomed to violence and to following order to inflict it...

    Call it what you will... (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by kdog on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 08:05:41 AM EST
    "sadism gene", darkside of human nature, a result of a unhealthy upbringing...whatever causes humans in authority over others to lose their humanity is very real, and all the more reason to severely limit the power one human being can have over another....be they cops, prison guards, psychiatric hospital workers, or politicians.

    Bingo (5.00 / 1) (#13)
    by daring grace on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 11:47:08 AM EST
    But with something as egregious as this I think you have to add the lack of background checking. Time and again, I read about abuses of the developmentally disabled and folks in nursing homes around my area and many, many, times the perpetrator/staff implicated have prior convictions/history of violence in their past.

    Likewise, caring for vulnerable populations like this can be extremely demanding and requires extra patience and, as you say, training. Too often these are low paying jobs where no attention is paid to the ability of the job applicants to manage the rigors of it day to day.

    Not to mention: look at what we value in our culture. Money managers earn well. Custodians for those who need care the most...not so much.

    My stepson (5.00 / 1) (#19)
    by Che's Lounge on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 08:48:30 PM EST
    was recently diagnosed as bipolar and mildly schizophrenic, but that's no surprise. His grandfather was also, as is his mother.

    It strains even the most level headed individuals (not my claim) to deal with the manic phases, the angry outbursts and the threatened physical confrontations, especially with someone you love. It's heartbreaking, and yet, there are times when anger threatens to replace logical compassionate thought so that conflict resolution is nearly impossible.

    The bottom line is that blame cannot be placed anywhere but at the supervisory level. The people who set up and run these facilities must be held fully accountable for maintaining the civility of the watchers over the watched. That is their purpose. That is their responsibility.  

    Reminds me of Stanley Milgram (none / 0) (#3)
    by Mikeb302000 on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 07:06:12 AM EST
    He's the guy who ran the famous "shock" experiments that took place at Yale in the 60s which I wrote about here.

    re: Reminds me of Stanley Milgram (none / 0) (#4)
    by john horse on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 07:27:24 AM EST
    I don't see the connection.  "The Milgram experiment was a series of social psychology experiments . . . which measured the willingness of study participants to obey an authority figure who instructed them to perform acts that conflicted with their personal conscience." (wikipedia)  In this case I don't see any evidence that school officials gave these school employees any signal or indication that this abuse was acceptable.  Its not like the White House saying that they were going to take the gloves off regarding "terrorists" and that the Geneva Conventions were no longer applicable.

    Sorry John (none / 0) (#21)
    by Mikeb302000 on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 10:31:30 AM EST
    Isn't there an abuse factor in common, a tendency to be cruel?

    We all have excuses (none / 0) (#6)
    by SOS on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 08:27:14 AM EST
    to ignore the abuses

    Feces, Urine, and Vomit (none / 0) (#7)
    by kidneystones on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 08:41:53 AM EST
    My previous comment somehow didn't make it onto the page. Perhaps, because I pointed out that it was the cops who rescued the patients from the health-care workers.

    If you're interested in doing something more than simply smearing cops and prison workers, you might be interested to learn that the Republican Governor of Texas has ignored the profound problems of abuse throughout the Texas State School System for the last five years.
    From a 2007 Dallas news article:

    In a 2000 incident at the Abilene State School, an aide ignored a resident who was found hours later in a trash bin, naked.

    Other employees have left residents covered in feces and urine for hours, made them eat off plates where they had vomited, and fallen asleep on the job, waking only after residents engaged in sexual acts.

    State officials say they have been addressing cases of abuse and neglect.

    "In any direct-care environment, there are people who take advantage of more vulnerable people," said Cecilia Fedorov, a spokeswoman for the disability services department. "Nobody looks at this and says it's no big deal. We take it very seriously, and we continue to work to make sure operations there are the best possible for these residents."

    Though The News received employee disciplinary records for 474 confirmed cases of abuse or neglect since 2000, state health officials acknowledge they've counted nearly 300 confirmed cases in each of the last two years - about 1 for every 17 residents annually.

    No cops or prison guards to blame here, I'm afraid. Just health-care workers and inefficient Republicans.

    How 'bout that?

    Justice Threatened to Sue (none / 0) (#8)
    by kidneystones on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 08:51:37 AM EST
    Perhaps I just didn't hit the right button. Whatever else Bush Justice officials got wrong, they threatened to sue the Texas State Schools in December. Have to say the gratuitous swipe at law enforcement types in the preamble is looking more and more offensive the more I read the facts of this story of incompetence and misery. The Texas State Employees Union doesn't exactly come out of this smelling any better than the Republican administration, or the unhappy souls unfortunate enough to be placed in the care of 'mental-health professionals'. Sad, sad business.

    You seem to be spoiling for a fight (none / 0) (#14)
    by Claw on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 12:37:50 PM EST
    I have yet to see anyone here smear good cops or good prison officials.  They do a dangerous job and, providing they operate within the law, we owe them a debt of gratitude.
    The problem is that those in power are quite prone to abuse it.  The "swipe" at "law enforcement types" is really more of a reference to the many, many stories you can find at TL (and elsewhere) of police officers or prison guards breaking the law and abusing authority.
    In fact there was recently a scandal involving prison guards running what was essentially a "fight club," where inmates were forced to fight, and also using inmates as enforcers.  A story not entirely unlike this one...

    bush regime indisputablly sadistic (none / 0) (#9)
    by pluege on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 08:59:20 AM EST
    particularly cheney, but bush, rumsfeld, rice, wolfowitz, and feith also. From torture known to be ineffective to slaughtering and dislocating millions via unnecessary, illegal invasion, their actions (and those of their supporters) are clearly those of the vilest of sadists.

    Rove did it. (none / 0) (#15)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 01:49:44 PM EST
    He may not have done it (none / 0) (#20)
    by jondee on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 10:01:17 AM EST
    but he obviously hasnt used his prominence down there to inspire many to raise their mental capacites above the level f*ck 'n fight.

    He didn't do it, but it is his fault. (none / 0) (#22)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Mon Mar 16, 2009 at 11:50:33 AM EST
    How ironical (none / 0) (#10)
    by Saul on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 09:40:42 AM EST
    for this to occur in a city with the name Corpus Christi.  Corpus Christi is Latin for The Body of Christ

    Inexperienced, underpaid and under trained (none / 0) (#12)
    by DFLer on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 10:46:55 AM EST
    says it all.

    I can't bring myself to forgive (none / 0) (#16)
    by nellre on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 03:00:31 PM EST
    Sadism: the derivation of pleasure as a result of inflicting pain or watching pain inflicted on others.

    It scares me that this behavior is seen as the result of social pressures. It implies that the human race is a time bomb waiting to go off. Put the city of NY under a certain set of conditions and we'd have the Escape from New York scenario.

    I think we need to call it evil, and prosecute the staffers if they are found of sound mind.

    Interestingly (none / 0) (#17)
    by jondee on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 03:20:40 PM EST
    I rented a room from a guy outside Corpus in the late seventies who used to goad his five and six year old sons into duking it out.

    "Hit 'im, Bubba!"

    Maybe this is one the results of banning dog fights down there.


    Another explanation (none / 0) (#18)
    by Lora on Sun Mar 15, 2009 at 06:37:12 PM EST
    I'm not sure if sadism is the reason, that is, taking pleasure in causing another person pain.

    Ater all, people watching boxing matches aren't generally considered sadists, nor are those who instigate and/or egg on a schoolyard fight.

    Rather, these workers seem to have a total disregard for a mentally disabled person's feelings, physical welfare, and dignity.  To me, that speaks of deep-seated prejudices and lack of training and oversight, perhaps encouraged in a general atmosphere of neglect.  Combine that with the old "power corrupts" adage and you have a recipe for widespread abuse.