Community Systems Collide and Cooperate: Control of Deviance by the Legal and Mental Health Systems

Part of the Handbooks of Sociology and Social Research book series (HSSR)


For most of history, society controlled mentally disordered behavior informally; but with ­modernization it developed formal organizational controls for the behavior it recognized as mentally disordered. This chapter examines relatively recent formal attempts by two systems, the legal and mental health systems, to define and execute control over persons with mental illness whose behavior violates societal norms. It begins with a brief history of the posture of the legal and mental health systems toward mentally disordered persons prior to the mid-twentieth century. It then describes the collision which occurred following civil rights reforms which made the legal system the arbiter of the mental health system’s decisions in treatment and hospitalization, especially involuntary treatment and hospitalization. It describes societal forces beyond the two systems which brought about conditions leading to their cooperation. It then examines the new cooperation that is beginning to occur, giving some detail to one promising program of cooperation. Finally, it discusses directions for future inquiry by researchers who study the two systems’ efforts in controlling deviance of persons with mental illness.


Mental Illness Legal System Mental Health System Mental Hospital Revolving Door 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyNorth Carolina State UniversityRaleighUSA

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