National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy

The Twilight of Liberty:
Fear, Retribution, and Fundamental Unfairness
 in Mental Health Proceedings

Dennis B. Feld, J.D. and Arthur A. Baer, J.D.

In the aftermath of tragic, widely-publicized, and emotionally charged crimes (from the shootings in Aurora, Colorado and Newtown, Connecticut to a murder committed in a suburban shopping mall by a registered sex offender), mental health proceedings have increasingly been used by local district attorneys, state prosecutors and even county and hospital attorneys for purposes of obtaining indefinite civil incarceration and supervision at all costs, rather than as a forum for objectively resolving disputes over an individualís right to be free from constraint and an alleged need for continued, involuntary treatment. Contrary to the intended purpose of the law in forensic cases, which prohibits punishing non-culpable persons, past bad acts have in effect led to the use of the mental health laws for punishment and retribution. And past bad, sensationalized acts have led to enactment of bad laws, based on flawed policies, and the construction of a civil architecture of control, supervision, and confinement. This workshop will explore these issues in concrete cases and legislation, and hopes to facilitate a discussion on what may be done to ensure that these proceedings (and the mental health system), are used to achieve their rightful goals - rehabilitation and the restoration of liberty.                

Link to brief presenter bios:

Dennis Feld, J.D.

Arthur Baer, J.D.