deinstitutionalization | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction 

Deinstitutionalization is the process of moving residents of institutions, such as state hospitals, into the community.

Deinstitutionalization is a term that refers to the process of moving individuals who were once housed in large, state-run institutions, such as mental hospitals and correctional facilities, into the community. This process began in the 1960s and was driven by a number of factors, including a desire to improve the quality of care for those with mental illness or developmental disabilities, as well as a belief that community-based care would be more cost-effective.

While deinstitutionalization has been successful in many respects, it has also led to a number of challenges, particularly in the criminal justice system. For example, many individuals with mental illness who are released into the community may lack the necessary support services and resources to prevent them from becoming involved in the criminal justice system.

In the criminal justice system, deinstitutionalization has led to an increase in the number of mentally ill individuals who are incarcerated in jails and prisons. This is because many individuals with mental illness are unable to access the treatment and support services they need in the community and may turn to criminal activity as a result. In addition, the lack of resources and services available in the community means that many individuals with mental illness who are released from prison or jail are at high risk of reoffending and returning to the criminal justice system.

The impact of deinstitutionalization has been particularly acute in the juvenile justice system. Many youths who are placed in juvenile detention facilities have a history of mental illness or behavioral problems and may require specialized treatment and support services. However, due to limited resources and a lack of community-based alternatives, many of these youth end up being placed in adult prisons, where they are at increased risk of violence, abuse, and suicide.


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Last Modified: 06/30/2021


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