50th Anniversary showing of ‘Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace’

50 years ago, ABC investigative reporter Geraldo Rivera responded to a call from doctors and social workers at the Willowbrook State School to report on the appalling conditions under which its residents lived. Rivera and his crew captured footage in that clandestine visit to the School that became the explosive and honest exposé Willowbrook: The Last Great Disgrace.

When his report aired nationally, viewers were shocked to see residents living in squalor with little access to comfort or care, the result of years of budget cuts that had left the once-model institution overcrowded and understaffed. The public outcry led to a Consent Judgement in the New York courts that ordered the closure of Willowbrook and became a key precedent establishing that Willowbrook residents had a constitutional right to be protected from harm.

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of the original broadcast and as part of the 2022 Year of Willowbrook at the College of Staten Island/ CUNY, the Willowbrook Legacy Project presented an evening of reflection and discussion with Geraldo Rivera, hosted by Ken Iwama, former CSI VP of Economic Development, Continuing Studies, and Government Relations, now Chancellor of Indiana University Northwest.