- Published: September 19, 2012
- Written by Joshua Jackson
Since 1960s there has been a trend away from the use of involuntary commitment. This trend began with concerns about the conditions within psychiatric hospitals and the treatment of their patients. In addition, involuntary commitment presents some difficulties for the legal system. Some hold that psychiatric patients should receive "the due process protections... provided to criminal defendants" (Hendin) Even with due process protections, involuntary commitment necessarily creates a class of individuals who can be subject to confinement without being found guilty of a crime.
The reduction of involuntary commitment has however led to new problems. Notably, the decrease in psychiatric hospital population has seen an increase in the population of mentally ill in prisons. Now as inmates instead of patients these individuals are unlikely to receive treatment, leading to increased recidivism.
Those among the mentally ill who manage to stay out prison. A 2005 study provides the grim details: the rate of being the victim of violent crime is “more than 11 times higher than the general population” among those with severe mental illness. (Teplin) Further, it appears that “deinstitutionalization may also have increased homelessness”, which is both a problem in itself and a possible factor for both victimization and criminal recidivism.
Hendin, Herbert (1996). Suicide in America. W. W. Norton & Company
Walid Fakhoury, Stefan Priebe, Deinstitutionalization and reinstitutionalization: major changes in the provision of mental healthcare, Psychiatry, Volume 6, Issue 8, August 2007, Pages 313-316
Teplin LA, McClelland GM, Abram KM, Weiner DA. Crime Victimization in Adults With Severe Mental Illness: Comparison With the National Crime Victimization Survey. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005;62(8):911-921.