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Psychol Bull. 1989 Sep;106(2):171-83.

Involuntary commitments to public mental institutions: issues involving the overrepresentation of blacks and assessment of relevant functioning.


This article contributes to the debate in the mental health and legal systems concerning involuntary commitments to mental hospitals. The focus is on issues involving the overrepresentation of Black people among adults committed to U.S. public mental institutions and issues involving the assessment of relevant behavioral functioning in particular. Empirical findings, legal principles and procedures, and methodological limitations are reviewed to identify problems in current practice and relevant evidence bearing on those problems. Special emphasis is placed on the possible explanations for the overrepresentation of Blacks and on dependable assessments of relevant functioning that are needed to justify the state's coercive power to involuntarily confine people, regardless of race. The article concludes with a summary and recommendations for research and practice.

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