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From Asylum to PrisonDeinstitutionalization and the Rise of Mass Incarceration after 1945$
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Anne E. Parsons

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781469640631

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469640631.001.0001

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Mental Hospitals and the Carceral State

Mental Hospitals and the Carceral State

(p.20) Chapter One Mental Hospitals and the Carceral State
From Asylum to Prison

Anne E. Parsons

University of North Carolina Press

This chapter explores how in the 1940s, mental hospitals comprised land, buildings, and workforces used by the states to feed and house hundreds of thousands of people. Conscientious objectors who did service work at mental hospitals in lieu of military conscription founded the National Mental Health Foundation. They also collaborated with journalists to craft exposés about concentration camp–like conditions in hospitals. The author and former patient Mary Jane Ward published her book The Snake Pit, in which she argued against the loss of freedom that people with mental illness experienced. Policy makers responded to this anti-institutionalism by implementing mental health reforms that made hospitals larger and more therapeutic, and kept involuntary commitments intact. These initiatives made up the early stages of deinstitutionalization.

Keywords:   anti-institutionalism, conscientious objectors, deinstitutionalization, involuntary commitment, Mary Jane Ward, mental health reform, mental hospitals, mental illness, National Mental Health Foundation

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