Lennox Castle Hospital
Lennox Castle Hospital

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Lennox Castle Hospital

2.2.7 Resistance to institutions

Clickto read R. A. Parker's piece 'The persistent image'.

Activity 6 Resistance to institutions

Timing: 0 hours 30 minutes

Read R. A. Parker's peice 'The persistent image. As you read it through note down an example for each of what Parker suggests are the ‘four forms of reinforcement’ of attitudes towards institutional care during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Think back to the video. Does what you saw support Parker's argument?



Parker's ‘four forms of reinforcement’ are:

  1. ‘The deliberate cultivation of a repellent image’: he suggests that this followed from the implementation of the Poor Law and its philosophy of deterrence and oppression which permeated institutional provision from the start.

  2. ‘Reported cases of abuse of inmates’: he mentions scandals as well as routine cruelties.

  3. ‘Enforced association and routine of institutional life’: he quotes Townsend (1962) and a warehousing approach to care which forced people to live in an ‘artificial’ community in which they lost their own individuality.

  4. ‘Compulsion’: he mentions the practice of certification and lack of understanding of the differences between mental handicap and mental illness. Certification under the Mental Deficiency Act of 1913 placed on local authorities the responsibility to ensure that all adults and children considered ‘mentally defective’ should be identified by a specially appointed Executive Officer and examined and certified by a doctor. A patient's certification was reviewed every five years before a committee, but was rarely revoked.

How did you see these ‘four forms of reinforcement’ in relation to Lennox Castle? Was its image ‘repellent’? Margaret Scally and James Lappin seemed to have mixed feelings about the place. As an ex-inmate perhaps Margaret is more forthright in her critical expressions. Howard Mitchell describes its dubious reputation within the wider community but seems to see both positive and negative sides to its past.

What about abuse and scandals? Well we did hear about behaviour which by today's standards might be regarded as unsatisfactory and unacceptable in relation to patients.

‘Enforced association’ sounds like Goffman's description of the total institution. Margaret, Colin and James's accounts are full of references to people being regimented in groups and having opportunities for individuality suppressed.

Compulsion and detention was certainly a feature of Lennox Castle's care regime. We heard about the young men who were detained there as an alternative to prison and it certainly seemed as if James and Margaret had not had much choice until recently about where they might live, despite the ending of certification in 1959.

Parker was writing at a time (1988) when all forms of institutional care, including residential care, were under review. His hope, expressed at the end of the chapter, is that, given time, memories of past abuses would fade and that a new, more positive view of collective forms of provision might emerge coupled with more enlightened and sympathetic practice.

Key points

  • Institutional care tended to be provided for those who had a low status in society, either from poverty or disability.

  • The staff also occupied a low status within the hierarchy of their professions.

  • Low status, ‘repellent image’, association with the Poor Law and a philosophy of deterrence and oppression meant that as far as the general public was concerned institutional care was regarded with fear and horror.


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