The Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland

Jun 3, 2016

Dan Barry, New York Times reporter and author of The Boys in the Bunkhouse

In 2009, 21 men were rescued from the abandoned Atalissa schoolhouse they inhabited since 1974. 

Their lives consisted of working for next to nothing at a turkey plant nearby in West Liberty, living together in the schoolhouse, and taking trips to the Atalissa Mini Mart.

On this edition of River to River, host Ben Kieffer talks with New York Times journalist Dan Barry about his latest book, The Boys in the Bunkhouse: Servitude and Salvation in the Heartland, a non-fiction account of what happened over a period of three decades in the small eastern Iowa town of Atalissa to a group of men with intellectual disabilities.

Barry researched the lives of these men and that of the turkey plant and its owner. In the account he details the exploitation of the men, the physical and emotional abuse, and how the men eventually found justice.

Susan Seehase, the services director for Exceptional Persons Inc., also joins the conversation to talk about how the men adjusted to their newfound freedom, as well as her organization's role in securing housing, work, and healthcare for them after their release.