Diversion of patients with mental illness from court-ordered care to immigration detention

Psychiatr Serv. 2012 Apr;63(4):377-9. doi: 10.1176/appi.ps.201100040.


Over 350,000 immigrants are detained by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) each year. An unknown fraction of these detainees have serious mental illnesses and are taken into ICE custody even though a criminal court has ordered them to enter inpatient mental health care. The authors report findings from 16 such cases in which they have provided advocacy over the past four years. In some cases, they were able to secure release of detainees into inpatient care in community (nonforensic) settings, which involved substantial logistical challenges. Given the well-documented concerns about securing adequate care for ICE detainees with mental illness, a logical policy change would be for ICE to allow these patients to enter court-ordered inpatient care. This move would improve care for patients and would also unburden ICE from the untenable proposition of caring for patients that the criminal justice system has deemed unfit for incarceration.

MeSH terms

  • Emigrants and Immigrants / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Emigrants and Immigrants / psychology*
  • Emigration and Immigration / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Male
  • Mandatory Programs / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Prisoners / psychology
  • United States