Officials raze Atalissa bunkhouse where mentally disabled Iowa plant workers were abused


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ATALISSA, Iowa — Officials have torn down a bug-infested, hazardous bunkhouse that had held more than 30 mentally disabled Iowa plant workers subjected to years of abuse by their handlers.

The bunkhouse in Atalissa, a rural eastern Iowa community several miles from the West Liberty plant, was demolished about a week ago, the Quad-City Times reported ( ) Saturday.

Several town residents fondly recalled seeing and interacting with the men who had lived in the bunkhouse.

The workers became part of the community, even participating with a float in the Atalissa Days parade, said Kelsy VanDusen.

"They were regulars at the convenience store where I worked," she said.

Last year, a jury found that Henry's Turkey Service — a now defunct Goldthwaite, Texas, company — subjected the men to years of abuse and discrimination at home and work. Henry's contracted the workers out to the West Liberty Foods turkey processing plant from the 1970s until 2009, and oversaw their care at home and at work.

The jurors found that Henry's discriminated against the 32 men and awarded each $7.5 million in damages. The $240 million verdict was slashed to $1.6 million because of federal damage caps.

State officials shut down the bunkhouse in 2009 and transitioned the men, many of whom needed urgent medical care, into new housing.

Information from: Quad-City Times,

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