Deinstitutionalization of individuals with mental illness was intended to be a liberating experience. Those with mental illness would live in the community with an array of services and be able to be free from the constraints of confinement. In the early 1960’s the United States began an initiative to reduce and close publicly-operated mental hospitals. This became known as deinstitutionalization. The goal of deinstitutionalization was to allow people suffering from mental illness to live more independently in the community with treatments provided through community health programs. Unfortunately, the federal government did not provide sufficient ongoing funding for the programs to meet the growing demand. States reduced their budgets for mental hospitals but failed to increase funding for on-going community-based mental health programs. As a result of deinstitutionalization hundreds of thousands of mentally ill people were released into the communit...
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...s an alternative to incarceration, the models have not been effective in stemming the massive number of individuals with mental illness from being disproportionately incarcerated. (National Health Care for the Homeless Council, 2011)
Deinstitutionalization is not the only reason for the overcrowding in jails and prisons. Several states authorize police officers to arrest mentally ill people who have not broken any law. It is argued that this process is a way to promote public order. Hospitals also transfer mentally ill patients to jail in order to deal with the overflow. It is not uncommon for children to be confined to criminal detention centers because there is a lack of facilities for severely mentally ill children. Relying on the criminal justice systems to be surrogate mental health systems conflicts with the basic notions of justice. (Aufderheide, 2014).
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