Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 19, Issue 3, pp 281–300

Policing the deinstitutionalized mentally ill: Toward an understanding of its function

  • Sandra Wachholz
  • Robert Mullaly

DOI: 10.1007/BF01844063

Cite this article as:
Wachholz, S. & Mullaly, R. Crime Law Soc Change (1993) 19: 281. doi:10.1007/BF01844063


Although the police have long been recognized as a community health resource in the United States, this role has expanded significantly over the past several decades as a result of the deinstitutionalization movement. From a critical perspective, this article provides an analysis of the relationship between this enlarged police role and the current American socio-political order, in general, and the welfare state in particular. It is argued that in the course of handling the mentally ill the police carry out a number of functions for both the welfare state and the socio-political order, and in doing so, shore-up the social conditions which have inhibited the development of a positive, long-term care policy for the mentally ill. This article discusses three such functions and identifies an alternative social arrangement; one in which the police would not have to serve as a support for liberal-capitalism and its attendant inadequate welfare state.

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sandra Wachholz
    • 1
  • Robert Mullaly
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of New BrunswickFrederictonCanada
  2. 2.Department of Social WorkSt. Thomas UniversityFrederictonCanada

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