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An ACT to define feeble-mindedness (March 20, 1916)

In "An ACT to define feeble-mindedness," passed on March 20, 1916, the General Assembly details the commitment procedures of the mentally ill.

Transcription from Original

Chap. 388.—An ACT to define feeble-mindedness and to provide for the examination, legal commitment, and the custody and care of feeble-minded persons, and their segregation in institutions. (S. B. 147.)
Approved March 20, 1916.

1. Be it enacted by the general assembly of Virginia, That the words "feeble-minded person" in this act shall be construed to mean any person with mental defectiveness from birth or

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from an early age, but not a congenital idiot, so pronounced that he is incapable of caring for himself or managing his affairs, or of being taught to do so, and is unsafe and dangerous to himself and to others and to the community, and who, consequently, requires care, supervision and control for the protection and welfare of himself, of others and of the community, but who is not classible as an "insane person," as usually interpreted.

2. No feeble-minded person shall be sent to any institution, except as hereinafter provided. When any person residing in this State shall be supposed to be feeble-minded, any reputable citizen of the State may file a petition in the circuit court of the county, or corporation court of the city, or with the judge thereof in vacation, or before any justice in the city or county in which such alleged feeble-minded person is found, setting forth under oath the circumstances indicating the feeble-mindedness of the person named, the facts of his condition and surroundings, his financial condition, and the names and financial condition of the persons, if any, having custody or control, and the parents, guardians and brothers and sisters, if any, of the alleged feeble-minded person.

3. Thereupon, it shall be the duty of the judge or the justice with whom said petition is filed, to issue a warrant ordering such alleged feeble-minded person to be brought before him and summon the persons named in the petition and such other persons as may be deemed competent to testify to the condition and circumstances of the alleged feeble-minded person, including two physicians, and enter or issue an order fixing a time and place for the examination of such feeble-minded person. The judge or the justice and the two physicians, one of whom shall, when practicable, be the family physician, and neither shall in any manner be related to him or have an interest in his estate, shall constitute a commission to determine whether or not such person is feeble-minded as alleged; and if it be found by such commission that such person is feeble-minded, and is not under such proper supervision, care of control as to insure the welfare of himself, of others, or of the community, the commission shall file with the circuit or corporation court of the county or city in which such commission is held, a report in writing, setting forth the results of their examination, together with their conclusions and recommendations.

4. If the commission be satisfied that such person is not feeble-minded, he shall be discharged and the petition dismissed. If the commission be satisfied that such person is feeble-minded, said commission may petition the circuit or corporation court of the county or city in which said commission is held, or the judge thereof in vacation, and said court or judge may appoint some suitable person to be the guardian or committee of the person of such feeble-minded person, and said court or judge may also appoint the same or a different person guardian or

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committee of the property of the feeble-minded person, and such guardian or guardians shall have the rights and duties which pertain to guardians of the person and property of infants under the laws of this State, and shall give such bond as may be required by said judge; provided, that the said court or judge may commit such feeble-minded person to a private institution approved by the State board of charities and corrections, or to a State institution or colony for the feeble-minded. And said court or judge may commit said feeble-minded person to the custody of the superintendent of the poor of the county or city in which said commission is held, pending admission into the institution or colony. A person adjudged feeble-minded shall have a right of appeal to the supreme court of appeals. The costs of the proceedings upon a petition for determining feeble-mindedness shall be defrayed in the same manner as is provided by law in proceedings to determine insanity.

5. Immediately upon an entry of an order directing that a feeble-minded person be sent to an institution, or colony for the feeble-minded, the clerk of the circuit court or corporation court in which said order is entered, shall send a copy of the order of commitment and the interrogatories and answers thereto tot eh State Board of Charities and Corrections and two copies to the superintendent of the institution or colony to which such feeble-minded person is ordered to be sent, and such superintendent shall receive such feeble-minded person into said institution or colony as soon as there may be room therein. But if, upon examination of the commitment papers, the superintendent of the said institution or colony observes any irregularities therein, or has reason to believe that said person is illegally committed, it shall be his duty to return said papers to the court or justice for correction.

Before delivering a feeble-minded person to the authorities of a hospital or colony, the sheriff, sergeant, overseer of the poor, or other persons having charge of such feeble-minded person, shall see that he is clean, free from vermin or contagious diseases. Before the admission of any feeble-minded person he shall have been successfully vaccinated against smallpox, and properly clothed; and all such feeble-minded persons shall be, when so required by the superintendent of such hospital or colony, delivered to the agent of such hospital or colony at the nearest or most convenient railroad station or steamboat landing, at the expense of the county or corporation from which such feeble-minded person was committed.

When application is made to the superintendent of an institution or colony for the admission of a feeble-minded person, he shall forthwith send an attendant from the institution or colony to conduct such feeble-minded person to the institution or colony to conduct such feeble-minded person to the institution or colony, and if, for any reason, it is impracticable to send an attendant for this purpose, then the superintendent may ap-

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point the sheriff of the county or the sergeant of the city in which such feeble-minded person is held or other suitable person, to convey him or her to the institution or colony. If this feeble-minded person is conveyed to the institution or colony by an attendant from said institution or by some person appointed by the superintendent a certificate for transportation for said attendant or person and the feeble-minded person shall be furnished by the superintendent of the institution or colony.

The sheriff or the sergeant or other person appointed for the purpose, shall receive for conveying a feeble-minded person to the institution or colony only actual expenses. The cost of conveying feeble-minded persons committed by a legally appointed commission shall be paid from the funds appropriated for the support therefor. Female attendants shall be appointed to convey female patients to the institutions or colonies.

6. Upon receiving the feeble-minded person, the superintendent of the institution shall endorse upon the commitment papers the fact that such feeble-minded person has been received, naming the person or persons from whom the feeble-minded is received. One copy of the commitment papers so endorsed shall be sent to the clerk of the circuit or corporation court of the city or county in which said commission was held, and another copy of the commitment papers shall be kept by the superintendent, and the person delivering the feeble-minded person shall endorse thereon the fact of such delivery. The superintendent of any State institution or colony, or the person having charge of the feeble-minded person, shall be notified of the time and place of hearing, upon any petition for the removal of the feeble-minded person from his custody, or for the variations of the order of commitment.

7. On the admission of a feeble-minded person into an institution, pursuant to the provisions of this act, the superintendent of the institution shall cause the mental condition of such person to be examined, and said person placed under special observation for a period of not less than two months, during which time such person shall be subjected to the Binet Simon measuring scale for intelligence, or some other approved test of mentality, to be applied by the superintendent of said colony and by an expert designated by him and approved by the special board of directors of the institution or colony; and, if, in their opinion, such person is not feeble-minded within the meaning of this act, or is not a suitable subject for care and treatment at the colony or institution, he shall be returned to the city, county or institution from which he was committed, at the expense of such county, city or institution.

8. In order to promote the welfare of the patients in the colonies or institutions, the superintendents and the special boards of directors thereof shall, as far as possible, provide suitable employment for the patients and such training as may

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be adapted to their capacities, and to that end shall, as soon as practicable, provide such buildings and employ such teachers as may be necessary for those purposes. The superintendent shall administer to the patients of said institution such medical and surgical treatment as will in the opinion of said superintendent and of the special board of directors tend to the mental and physical betterment of said patients. Non-resident feeble-minded persons shall be dealt with after commitment, or after admission into the hospital or colony for the feeble-minded, in a similar manner as is provided for non-resident insane persons in section sixteen hundred and seventy-six, Pollard's Code, nineteen hundred and four, or laws amendatory thereof.

9. Any person who shall knowingly contrive or conspire to commit any person to an institution for the feeble-minded unlawfully or maliciously, and any person who shall violate any of the provisions of this act shall be deemed guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be fined not exceeding one thousand dollars or confined in jail not exceeding one year, or both.

10. When a person is brought before any circuit or corporation court, juvenile court, justice of the peace, or other court of justice for any purpose other than an inquiry into his mental condition, if it appears to the court upon the testimony of one or more qualified physicians that such a person is feeble-minded within the meaning of this act, the judge or the justice shall direct some officer of the court, or other suitable person to file a petition under this act, and the court, pending the preparation, filing and hearing of such petition, may order the said person to be detained in a proper place of safety; or be placed under the guardianship of some suitable person; or committed to the department of the criminal insane at the appropriate institution, for observation, under such limitations as it may order, pending the determination of the mental condition of said persons suspected of being feeble-minded.

11. When the mental condition of any person under guardianship or custody as a feeble-minded person, pursuant to an order of court or judge or justice, under this act, is found to be such that he should be transferred to a hospital for the insane, the superintendent of the institution in which the patient may be, or any reputable citizen of the State, may institute proceedings to have such person declared insane under the law for such cases made and provided; and when the mental condition of any person under guardianship or custody as insane, under the laws of this State, is found to be such that he should be transferred to guardianship or custody as a feeble-minded person, the superintendent of the institution in which said person may be, or any citizen of the State may file a petition under this act to have such person adjudged feeble-minded.

12. The superintendent of an institution or a colony for the feeble-minded shall, in suitable cases, issue furloughs for such

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length of time as he may deem proper, to those feeble-minded patients in such institutions, who would be benefited or improved by being so furloughed, and whom it would be safe to furlough, provided that all costs and charges for such removal from the said institution or colony and for their return thereto shall be paid by such patients, or by the friends or relatives of such patients, if they shall be able to do so; if not, the institution may defray such expenses.

13. The superintendent of a State colony or other State institution for the care and treatment of the feeble-minded may, subject to the rules and regulations established by the general board of directors of State hospitals, receive and detain therein, as a patient, any suitable person who is a legal resident of the State, on the application of the said person's parent or legal guardian. A person thus received as a voluntary patient at such hospital or institution shall be detained so long as the superintendent and commissioner of State hospitals and the special board of directors deem advisable, provided that no indigent patient who has been committed is thereby, on account of lack of room denied admission. The superintendent or physician in charge of any State institution or colony for the feeble-minded shall report to the commissioner of State hospitals and the special board of directors, the admission of a person by such voluntary agreement, and forward to said commissioner, and also present to the special board of directors, at their next meeting, a record of such patient, in accordance with such rules and regulations as may be established by the general board of State hospitals.

14. Such voluntary patient shall, through his legal representative, be required to defray his expenses for transportation to and from the institution or colony, and for care and treatment while in such colony or institution. The rate of charges for care and treatment of such voluntary patients shall be fixed by the commissioner of hospitals and the general board of directors of State hospitals, provided that such charges do not exceed the actual cost of care and maintenance and treatment of such voluntary patients. Upon making application for voluntary admission the parents, guardians or other legal custodians of such persons, shall furnish and deliver an obligation acceptable to the special board of directors, with sufficient surety (payable to the institution in its corporate name), for the payment of such sum of money as may be fixed by the general board of directors, for his maintenance, care and treatment, while in the hospital or institution.

15. The superintendents of the colonies for the feeble-minded within this State and under its control and management, the secretary of the State board of charities and corrections and the commissioner of State hospitals for the insane, shall constitute a committee whose duty it shall be to prepare suitable and proper forms, interrogatories, mittimi and other papers neces-

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sary to carry out the purposes of this act and to provide for the examination of such persons as may be brought before a commission, as provided in this act, and the commitment of such persons as shall be adjudged feeble-minded under the provisions of this act.

16. On and after the date on which this act goes into effect, and as soon as room is available at the appropriate institution, no feeole-minded woman of child-bearing age shall be received as an inmate of any almshouse in this State.

17. All acts and parts of acts inconsistent with this act are to that extend hereby repealed.