The Mirror Image of Asylums and Prisons: An International Study

Source: Sacha Raoult, Bernard E. Harcourt, University of Chicago; Columbia Law School, Columbia Law and Economics Working Paper No. 472, May 28, 2014

From the abstract:
A previous study found an inverse relationship between mental hospital rates and prison rates in the United States over the period 1934-2001. Surprisingly, current levels of mass incarceration in the United States replicate closely the rates of asylum confinement in the 1950s, right before the massive political, medical, and intellectual shift toward psychiatric deinstitutionalization. This paper is a follow-up study that shows how widespread internationally this off-setting effect of asylum and prisons seems to be. We first show how, on almost two centuries of data, every French prison trend is compensated by an inverse asylum trend. We then turn to recent international data to show that, apart from Scandinavia, contemporary prison rates in the Western world mirror the asylum rates before deinstitutionalization. We then offer research avenues and hypotheses that may help explain and understand the implication of these results.