Forced ≠ Treatment: Carceral Strategies in Mental Health

By Kayla Tawa

As mental health concerns and awareness around mental health challenges have increased, policymakers have prioritized mental health policy. Within these conversations, there is a broad recognition that far too often people experiencing mental health challenges encounter the criminal legal system rather than accessing mental health supports. In response, many policymakers have championed policies that aim to divert people experiencing mental health challenges away from prisons and jails and into mental health treatment. However, some of these policies, particularly those involving forced treatment, rely on carceral tactics and replicate incarceration.

The following brief analyzes state and local policies that adopt carceral approaches to mental health treatment, showing:

  • Forced treatment is carceral;
  • Forced treatment is subject to less oversight;
  • Forced treatment is ineffective and traumatic; and
  • Forced treatment most harms marginalized communities.

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