“Rensselaer county poor house has two hundred paupers; twenty-one of whom are insane. Ten are males, and eleven are females. Only five are native born. About thirteen cases are mild; not one of the whole number have ever received treatment in an asylum, or with reference to recovery. Thirteen of them are filthy. Several of them have been in the poor house so long that it is impossible to ascertain the date of their admission; they have grown demented, idiotic. Four males are capable of moderate labor, and five females. For the others there is nothing to do, nothing to beguile a single hour of long and weary years. Six are destructive to clothing; three require occasional restraint, the means resorted to are hand cuffs and confinement. The house has a full supply of water but no bath tub. The insane are required to bathe “occasionally.”
The building is of brick, two and three stories high, with eight feet ceilings, and with rooms 12 by 18 feet. Iron bedsteads are used, not fastened to the floor; two sleep in one bed sometimes; the straw bedding is changed four times in a year. The diet is very plain, and sent to such as are not able to come to the table. The only convenience for the various grades of insane is separate rooms for the violent; they have only such care as paupers bestow in their daily attendance. Two escaped during the year who were not returned, and two were removed by their friends. The institution receives recent cases, though it never aims to cure one of them. A physician visits the poor house twice in a week, and oftener if necessary.
In 1857 this institution presented a condition repulsive in itself and revolting to humanity. It may be in a cleaner condition now, and there may be none now among the lunatics who are confined without privilege of coming daily to the open air, and who lie down in straw at night. Such was not the condition then, and doubtless there is yet ample room for improvement in the care which this class of unfortunates should receive.”
SOURCE: Documents of the Assembly Of The State Of New York, Eighty-Eighth Session, 1865, Volume 6, Nos. 199 to 112 Inclusive, Albany: C. Wendell, Legislative Printer, 1865, Page 210.