Diversion of the mentally ill into the criminal justice system: the police intervention perspective

Am J Psychiatry. 1981 Jul;138(7):973-6. doi: 10.1176/ajp.138.7.973.


The authors used longitudinal data from a suburban police department to assess whether increasing numbers of mentally ill individuals are coming to police attention in a state that has restrictive civil commitment laws. To test the hypothesis that police would arrest disruptive but nondangerous individuals to expedite their removal from the community, the authors studied the outcomes of all incidents involving a mentally ill individual during a 5-month period. Mental-illness-related incidents coming to police attention increased 227.6% from 1975 to 1979. Although a 13% arrest rate was reported for nondangerous incidents, police officers invoked the penal code only as a last resort.

MeSH terms

  • Commitment of Mentally Ill / trends*
  • Criminal Law*
  • Forensic Psychiatry / trends*
  • Humans
  • Jurisprudence*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Mental Disorders*
  • Pennsylvania
  • Social Control, Formal*