Norfolk State Hospital

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Norfolk State Hospital
Established 1885
Opened 1885
Current Status Active
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Norfolk, NE.
Alternate Names
  • Insane Asylum in Norfolk
  • Nebraska State Hospital
  • Norfolk Hospital for the Insane
  • Norfolk Regional Center (Current)

The Norfolk State Hospital was established in 1885 as an asylum for the "incurably insane" for the newly founded town of Norfolk, Nebraska. The hospital remains in operation today.


The Norfolk Regional Center was established in 1885 as an insane asylum under the name Norfolk Hospital for the Incurably Insane on 320 acres of land provided by the city of Norfolk. The institution went through several name changes. In 1895, the legislature voted to call it the Asylum for the Chronic Insane. In 1905, the name was changed to Nebraska State Hospital, and then again in 1915 it was renamed the Ingelside Hospital for the Insane. The facility had four types of patients: Geriactrics, Alcoholics and drug addicts, and the criminally insane. The norfolk Regional Center is currently a mental health and substance abuse treatment facility for adolescent and young adult males who have been paroled from the Youth Rehabilitation Treatment Center in Kearney, Nebraska (Nebraska Dept of Health).In total, 902 individuals were sterilized in Nebraska. 53% of whom were women. 80% of those sterilized were deemed “mentally deficient.” The lobotomies began in 1917 and ended in 1963.

In Nebraska, the first law regarding sterilization was passed in 1915, after a failed initial attempt by state legislators in 1913 was vetoed by Governor John H. Morehead. This law was revised in both 1929 and 1957. The 1915, law provided for the sterilizations of the insane and feeble-minded inmates of state institutions before they were paroled. The state institutions specifically mentioned in the statute included “institutions for the feeble-minded, hospitals for the insane, the penitentiary, reformatory, industrial schools, the industrial home, and other such State institutions” In 1929, the original law was repealed and a new law was enacted, which included “habitual criminals, moral degenerates, and sexual perverts“—those individuals convicted of rape or incest—as well as the original groups. The 1929 revision of the law made it so that any inmate convicted of rape or other crimes of sexual perversion were to be compulsorily sterilized. Although the sterilization was mandatory for these individuals, the law mandated both notice and hearing and the potential for appeal to the Supreme Court.

Although habitual criminals and sex offenders were included in the law between 1929 and 1957, the “feeble-minded” were the initial targets. They remained a group of concern for several years after the state ceased its sterilizations of the criminally insane. The ratio of men to women sterilized is relatively equal, indicating no presence of bias toward either sex. In 1929, the Nebraska legislature altered the sterilization law to include those individuals convicted of sodomy. This amendment included individuals who had been deemed “moral degenerates or sexual perverts”. According to data provided by Julius Paul, more than 80% of sterilizations occurred on residents of the Beatrice State Home, founded in 1887 as the Nebraska Institution for Feebleminded Youth. The institution is now known as the Beatrice State Developmental Center, specializing in the treatment of children and adults with behavioral and developmental disabilities (Nebraska Dept. of Health). The website makes no mention of the location’s past involvement with eugenics and sterilization. In terms of a history, the website states, briefly, that the Center “has served citizens with mental retardation since 1887”. Now it is renamed the Norfolk Regional Center, and has 120-beds in part of a Sex Offender Treatment Center providing Phase I services in the Nebraska Sex Offender Treatment Program. The Nebraska Sex Offender Treatment Program is a three phase treatment program meant to reduce dangerousness and risk of re-offense for patients involved in treatment. Phase I treatment orients patients to the treatment process; begins working with patients to accept full responsibility for their sex offending and sexually deviant behaviors; teaches patients to give and receive feedback and utilize coping skills; and builds motivation for the intensive treatment in Phases II and III which are provided at Lincoln Regional Center.