The bright turquoise schoolhouse in the tiny town of Atalissa, Iowa housed a terrible secret: in this filthy, roach-infested “bunkhouse” lived a group of men with intellectual disabilities who eviscerated turkeys in a nearby factory. Exhausted by hard work, paid a token wage, housed in squalid rooms, these men were virtually slaves. In The Boys in the Bunkhouse, Dan Barry exposes the exploitation and maltreatment of men denied basic human rights for decades.
Brought from Texas in 1974, the men, many former residents of state schools in Texas, spent all week doing the nastiest kind of work in the turkey factory then returned to the derelict bunkhouse indifferently cared for by the owners. Even at the best of times, when the bunkhouse was kept in decent repair, when the owners treated the men to lavish Christmases, when the townspeople embraced the “boys” as neighbors, the men received only a nominal wage and had no control over their living or working conditions.
So sad you’ll wish you could stop reading, but so well-written you won’t be able to, The Boys in the Bunkhouse is a damning indictment of all who turned a blind eye to men who deserved care, compassion, and the right to make their own choices.