The introduction reviews the relevant histories of prisons, mental health policy, and the social welfare state. It highlights how recent scholarship has not connected the history of mental hospitals to the broader history of imprisonment. From Asylum to Prison frames historic mental hospitals as part of a broader carceral state and charts how the rise of mass incarceration shaped the closure of mental hospitals. Law and order politics served to criminalize mental health conditions and substance abuse. New prison construction in the 1980s took money away from mental health services and prisons absorbed many functions of the former mental health system. Finally, this history of deinstitutionalization offers lesson for people working to reduce mass incarceration in the twenty-first century United States. The introduction closes with a discussion of people-centered language and key terms such as institutions, carceral state, and mental illness.
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