Carcerality in Psychiatric “Treatment”

Weaponizing the Notion of Safety


Narratives about safety are weaponized against disabled people. Psychiatrically disabled people all too often are intentionally disappeared from the populace under the justification that they are dangerous. This work problematizes the relationship between carcerality and psychiatry: penal incarceration, active rescue, and in-patient psychiatric policies. To this end, I draw on disability studies methodologies that encourage analyzing political and moral dimensions of structures that encounter people whose bodies and minds do not align with dominant American society’s expectations. Disabled people are overrepresented in state and federal prisons; there are three times more disabled people in prisons than in the general population, and four times more cognitively disabled people in prisons than in the general population (Bronson et. Al., 2015). The practice of active rescue turns suicide crisis hotlines into informants against people experiencing suicidal ideation, partnering with police to confine callers into in-patient psychiatric facilities (Draper, 2015). In-patient psychiatric facilities have policies around confinement that give the power to doctors to hold people in locked facilities and subject them to restraint and seclusion (Restraint and Seclusions, 2000). Violations of moral considerations for psychiatrically disabled people cannot be so written off so easily in the name of safety.

Bronson, J. et. Al. (2015). Disabilities Among Prison and Jail Inmates. U.S. Justice Department.

Draper, J., Murphy, G., Vega, E., Covington, D. W., & McKeon, R. (2015). Helping callers to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline who are at imminent risk of suicide: the importance of active engagement, active rescue, and collaboration between crisis and emergency services. Suicide & life-threatening behavior, 45(3), 261–270. 

 Office of the Inspector General. (2000, August). Restraints and Seclusion: State Policies for Psychiatric Hospitals. Department of Health and Human Services. 

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