Policing and Mental Illness in the era of deinstutionalisation and mass incarceration: A UK Perspective

Ian David Cummins

Abstract


The policy of deinstitutionalisation, a progressive policy aimed at reducing the civic and social isolation of the mentally ill, did not achieve its utopian aims. Wolff (2005)/Moon (2000) argue that the Asylum has been replaced by fragmented, dislocated world of bedsits, housing projects, day centres or increasingly prisons and the Criminal Justice system. This shift has been termed “transinstitutionalisation”. This incorporates the ideas that individuals live in a community but have little interaction with other citizens and major social interactions are with professionals paid to visit them. Other social outcomes such as physical health, which can be used as measures of citizenship or social inclusion, are also very poor. Kelly (2005) uses the term “structural violence” – originally from liberation theology to highlight the impact of a range of factors including health, mental health status and poverty that impact on this group. This paper will explore one aspect of this process – the impact on policing, particularly the assessment of mental health issues in the custody setting. The paper is based on research projects carried out with two police forces in the North West of England. Both the Police and Criminal Evidence Act ( PACE 2004) and the Mental Health Act (2007) provide police officers with powers in relation to the arrest and detention of individuals experiencing mental distress. In addition, this legislation provides greater protections to individuals experiencing mental distress if they are interviewed by the police in connection with an alleged offence. The research uses Chan (1996)’s application of bureaucratic field and habitus to policing to explore ways, in which, the impact of mass incarceration and deinstitutionalisation have led to the increased marginalisation of the mentally ill.

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International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory | ISSN : 1916-2782