Forest Haven

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Forest Haven was a live-in facility for children and adults with Intellectual Disability (ID) located in Laurel, Maryland and operated by the District of Columbia.[1] The site was opened in 1925 and closed on October 14, 1991 by order of a federal judge after years of alleged abuse, medical incompetence, and several deaths from aspiration pneumonia.


Forest Haven opened in 1925 as a farm-like institution geared towards educating its patients with useful life skills. It encompassed nearly 300 acres and contained 22 separate buildings, and at its height housed well over one thousand patients. Its decline began in the 1960s as funding was cut and the population grew to include persons with non-ID conditions such as epilepsy.[1] A lawsuit filed by families of patients at Forest Haven 1976 and joined by the Department of Justice in 1978 resulted in the relocation of many residents to group homes, but the facility continued to operate, even allowing a physician with a suspended medical license to continue practicing there.[2]

Between 1989 and 1991, prior to the facility's closure, the Justice Department began to monitor deaths from aspiration pneumonia, a condition that can be caused by improper feeding procedures (e.g. feeding a patient who is lying down). There are also accounts of rampant physical, mental, and sexual abuse at the facility.[2][3] Many of the patients who died were buried in a mass grave, unmarked until a headstone was erected by some of the patients' families. Some of the graves have been uncovered by erosion.[1]

Today, the site is abandoned and is cared for by United States Park Police, but remains a popular attraction for urban explorers. Many hazardous items such as asbestos have been removed, but much of the equipment, including desks, beds, toys, and medical records remain.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Maurer, Pablo (November 18, 2013). "Abandoned D.C.: Inside The Ruins Of The Forest Haven Asylum". DCist. Archived from the original on October 7, 2015. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Waas, Murray (April 3, 1994). "Bleak House". LATimes. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 
  3. ^ Boo, Katherine (March 1, 1999). "Forest Haven is gone, but the agony remains". WashingtonPost. Retrieved September 1, 2015. 

External links

  • Oak Hill Center Emptied and Its Baggage Left Behind. The Washington Post. 29 May 2009
  • Behind Oak Hill's Fences, Violence and Uncertainty. The Washington Post. August 2, 2004
  • From Filthy Boys Prison to New Beginnings: Hill Staffers Walk a Mile in Youthful Offenders' Shoes. American Civil Liberties Union. July 14, 2011
  • D.C. Leaders Tour New Beginnings Youth Center. The Washington Post. June 4, 2009
  • "Abandoned Home for the Abandoned: Forest Haven Asylum." Sometimes Interesting. 12 Apr 2014

Coordinates: 39°6′19″N 76°46′32″W / 39.10528°N 76.77556°W / 39.10528; -76.77556

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