California Memorial Project: Giving a Voice, Recognition and Hope to our Peers

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California Memorial Project: Giving a Voice, Recognition and Hope to our Peers

The California Memorial Project was established to honor individuals with mental health and developmental disabilities who lived and died in California institutions.

We also honor those currently held in institutions and reflect on the continued fight for personal autonomy and self-determination.

The California Memorial Project (CMP) was created through a collaboration of 3 peer advocacy organizations: Disability Rights California’s (DRC) Peer Self-Advocacy Program, The California Network of Mental Health Clients and People First of California. In 2002, as a result of their advocacy efforts, Senator Wesley Chesbro introduced legislation SB 1448 to formally establish the goals and provide support to the CMP.

DRC’s Peer Self-Advocacy Program staff have continued the work of the CMP for the past several years. We hold annual remembrance ceremonies, place monuments, collect oral histories and document the history of the  peer movement. By preserving our stories, we reclaim and honor our past.

“In honor and memory of those who died and were buried anonymously on the grounds of the institution that stood on this site between 1852 and 1996. Let no person ever again be removed from the community by reason of disability.”
– Monument placed at the former Stockton institution site

The center stone of the memorial located in Napa, California.

DRC recognizes the rights of every individual to make their own decisions regarding their physical and mental health care. We advocate for and support their right to live independently in their communities. We uphold our belief that everyone deserves the opportunity and right to treatment and care that is voluntary and best meets their needs.

The individuals we honor lived and died in California mental health institutions and developmental centers. They were stripped of their rights and separated from their families, friends, and communities. Many were forced to receive treatment against their will without the freedom to make their own decisions and choose what was right for them.

This year, DRC will hold its 20th annual Remembrance Ceremony. This milestone event comes at a time when the rights of individuals are being attacked on multiple fronts throughout our country. From the California Governor calling for forced treatment of individuals with mental health disabilities, to the United States Supreme Court overturning the right to reproductive healthcare, our rights to personal autonomy and individual freedom are being taken away.

In addition to honoring and commemorating those who lived and died in state institutions, DRC also recognizes and respects the rights and dignity of individuals currently living in these institutions against their own wishes.


Gone, But no Longer Forgotten:
The California Memorial Project (Video)

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Further Reading and Resources


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