Emptying The Nuthouses Only To Fill Up The Prisons?
Slate has a very interesting article up addressing "Five myths about prison growth". The whole thing is worth reading, but I was particularly struck by this passage:
[I]f we look back historically at the lockup rate for mental hospitals as well as prisons, we have only just now returned to the combined rates for both kinds of incarceration in the 1950s. In other words, we're not locking up a greater percentage of the population so much as locking people up in prisons rather than mental hospitals. Viewed through this lens, what seems remarkable is not the current era of mass incarceration but the 1960s and '70s, during which we emptied the hospitals without filling the prisons. Any reform agenda that does not acknowledge the ingrained nature of our punitive impulses will surely fail.That's extraordinary if correct. I knew that in the 1950s mental institutions were more numerous but I no idea that there must have been that many.