Why it’s a problem: This article is a bit underhanded, because it starts by framing bad policy (a return to asylums) as a Trump invention, but then goes on to provide support for a slightly less evil policy with a seemingly balanced perspective. The author even manages to slip in the ableist adage, “Most homeless people are not mentally ill,” which implies that unlike people experiencing “severe mental illness,” unhoused people deserve not to be completely dehumanized. The rest of the article then proceeds to focus entirely on carceral solutions for people with severe mental illness, promising a break from the past abuses of institutionalization with rosy visions of “animals and a farm” and “behavioral techniques that we’ve perfected.” However, as Liat Ben-Moshe observes in her comprehensive book on the topic, Decarcerating Disability, the common discourse that deinstitutionalization led to the unhoused crisis in the United States “reduces a much more complex process and points the blame toward an easy target—deinstitutionalization—and away from discussions of neoliberal policies that led simultaneously to the growth of the prison system and to a lack of financial support for people with disabilities to live in the community. In essence, the new asylums discourse medicalizes, pathologizes, and psychiatrizes what is a deeply political and socioeconomic issue.” It’s also important to keep in mind that the two most liberal states in the US are currently leading the push for a return to institutionalization, and the violent political rhetoric scapegoating unhoused people and people with mental illness is what led directly to incidents such as the murder of Jordan Neely on a New York City subway train earlier this year.


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