Mental illness, preventive detention, prison, and human rights
in Incarceration and human rights
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Mental illness, of course, varies in its impact and its intensity. But usually mental illness is less extreme and more confined than that, and often it is amenable to treatment. Mental illness is a condition that carries with it considerable societal stigma and is widely misunderstood, a point that was underscored in a 2009 United Kingdom poster campaign that featured the comic actor Stephen Fry. In England and Wales, the rights of mentally ill prisoners fall under the same general regulatory regime that applies to all other prisoners. Prisons, like asylums, are what Erving Goffman and Larry Gostin call 'total institutions'. They are places of confinement where all aspects of an inmate's life are controlled by the authorities. Like asylums, they have considerable potential for abuse. The larger and more overcrowded a prison gets, the greater the probability that this potential will be realised.

Incarceration and human rights

The Oxford Amnesty Lectures 2007


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