Disposition of the Irresponsible: Protection Following Commitment

Each year more of our fellow citizens are involuntarily committed to a mental institution of one sort or another than are incarcerated for the commission of a crime. To those committed, the walls and barred windows of the hospital, as well as the treatment and mode of living, are probably not significantly different from those of a prison. This is particularly the case with those confined for treatment by court order or by some special statutory procedure following acquittal of a crime on grounds of insanity. Yet these mentally ill, even after perpetrating what would otherwise have been a criminal act, are not criminals; their involuntary stay in the hospital is, at least in part, intended for their own protection and treatment, not as punishment for their actions.