Anna, Illinois, population about 4,100, is an out-of-the-way place. In far southern Illinois, it’s closer to Paducah, Kentucky, than to St. Louis. It takes about 3 ½ hours to drive north from Anna to Springfield.

Anna sits out of sight for most Illinoisans. But these days, thanks to some powerful investigative reporting, it is hardly out of mind.

Anna is notable now for an unwelcome reason: It is home to a state facility that has been the scene of alleged physical and mental abuse, over a period of decades, against some of Illinois’ most vulnerable residents.

The Choate Developmental Center houses more than 200 people, according to Illinois Department of Human Services data for October. Some 85% have intellectual and developmental disabilities, and the remainder have mental health issues. One in 10 are nonverbal. Almost 9 in 10 are treated with psychotropic drugs.


David Greising is the president and chief executive of the Better Government Association, joining the BGA in 2018. For nearly a century, the BGA has fought for honest and effective government through investigative journalism and policy advocacy.