Deinstitutionalization is Madness
A Commentary by J. D. Longstreet
The definition of "deinstitutionalization"
is simple. It is taking mentally ill patients from mental institutions
and placing them on your street corner and/or in local jails.
Ever wondered where all those mentally ill "homeless" people came from? Blame it on "deinstitutionalization."
I realize there are millions of Americans who see or hear the word
"deinstitutionalization" and have no clue what it means nor to what it
So let's see if we can shed a little light on it.
First we must understand the Law of Unintended Consequences. "The law of unintended consequences, often cited but rarely defined, is this: that actions of people—and especially of government—always have effects that are unanticipated or
unintended." SOURCE: http://www.econlib.org/library/Enc/UnintendedConsequences.html
So what makes the law of unintended consequences work? Well, the "Wise Geek" says the following:
"The two top reasons why the law of unintended consequences works,
according to Merton, is that the framers of a social change are either
ignorant of possible far reaching effects of the law or make errors when
they develop a change that don’t have the effects they desired. Other
reasons why we sometimes see changes occur after any type of event, new
scientific development, or treaty is passed may have to do with “self
interest,” so much so that a person who desperately wants to see a
change doesn’t evaluate the ultimate effects of that change." SOURCE: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-is-the-law-of-unintended-consequences.htm
Deinstitutionalization is a clear result of the law of unintended consequences. They go together like bread and butter.
The idea behind deinstitutionalization was this -- that
patients fare much better when they are looked after in a supportive
and loving environment than when they are placed in a human warehouse,
as mental institutions were sometimes referred to in the 1950’s and
So, America closed down many of its mental
institutions without making sure the community supports were in place ad
ready to receive the former mental patients. As a result, the
mentally ill wound up on our streets, in our jails, and in unprepared
homes where they created much discord and, in some cases, even committed
heinous crimes that tore those families apart.
understand what happened and the grievous error our government made by
releasing much of the country's mentally ill onto society, we have to go
back to the 1960's. (Surprise! Surprise!) Since, roughly, 1960 it has become almost impossible to hospitalize a person with a serious mental illness.
Deinstitutionalization is a clear case in which the "do-gooders" have managed to bollocks things up to a fair-the-well.
was the battle cry of the political left of the sixties and it was
their actions at the time that led, eventually, to the mess we have now
with the insane roaming the streets of America as "homeless" people.
It was their actions that led to the courts placing a limit on
involuntary institutionalization and on the courts setting minimum
standards for care in institutions. Read more here: http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=About_the_Issue&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=137545
Unfortunately, as the mentally ill were invited OUT
of the mental hospitals they found few services or support waiting for
them outside. In many cases, it fell to their families to take care of
them, most often, those families were not prepared and were
overwhelmed. Far too many of the formerly institutionalized
mentally ill eventually wound up on the streets of America as homeless
people and/or in the nation's jails.
Clayton E. Cramer, in a piece entitled: ‘Deinstitutionalization’: Mass Murder and Untreated Madness, which was published at PJMedia says the following: "For
those of you under 40 — it used to be startling indeed to see people
begging in the streets or obviously insane in public. Homelessness and
various forms of urban degradation were byproducts of
deinstitutionalization." SOURCE: http://pjmedia.com/blog/deinstitutionalization-mass-murder-and-untreated-madness/
In Mr. Cramer's book: "My Brother Ron: A Personal and Social History of the Deinstitutionalization of the Mentally Ill." Mr. Cramer says: "...
for centuries the connection between mental illness and violence was
considered sufficiently obvious that the legal system provided various
ways to hospitalize the severely mentally ill when they first provided
clear indications that they were a hazard to themselves or others. Only
in the 1960s and 1970s did our society decide that this system was
unfair. It then embarked on a policy of “deinstitutionalization.” The
idea: standards for long-term, involuntary commitment of the mentally
ill should be just a bit less demanding than the standards of proof for
Unsurprisingly, emptying out the mental
hospitals and making it difficult to hospitalize people with serious
mental illness problems meant that society as a whole became a bit more
like a low-grade mental hospital."
There is a compelling
argument that those supporting gun control in America are missing the
importance of treatment for our mentally ill. Consider the role of
mental illness in all the recent mass shootings all across the country.
Mr. Cramer says: "Supporters of gun control
argue that we need stricter laws because ordinary, law-abiding people
just “snap” and go on rampages. There are people who indeed snap and go
on rampages (and not just with guns) — but they are seldom ordinary.
Often, they are people with long histories of mental illness who in 1960
would have been hospitalized before they killed someone." SOURCE: http://pjmedia.com/blog/deinstitutionalization-mass-murder-and-untreated-madness/
Deinstitutionalization is not working. It is not going to work. It is far too late to even consider “fixing” it.
needs Congress to step up on this problem and make the necessary
changes to existing laws and/or pass new laws that will allow us to
gather the mentally ill from our streets and prisons and from families
that are at their wit’s end, and place them in institutions in which
they will be cared for, and locked away from society -- for their sake
AND for ours.
Deinstitutionalization was a "feel good" project. In action it has been worse than a train wreck.
one considers all the harm to individuals, to families, and to the
country as a whole, it is difficult to determine which is more insane –
the patient, or the deinstitutionalization policy.
J. D. Longstreet