Civil Commitment: Directions for Advocacy in the 21st Century

Susan Stefan, J.D., and Amanda J. Marshall, J.D.

As advocates have shifted their focus first to deinstitutionalization and the right to refuse treatment, and then to Olmstead actions, they lost sight of how people were unjustly confined to institutions in the first place -- through civil commitment. After a burst of advocacy in the 1970s which tightened commitment standards and granted due process protections attnetion to the rights due to people at initial detention waned. Meanwhile, commitments through the criminal justice system skyrocketed. This workshop is about refocusing advoacy efforts on commitment, and how to do it, and what is needed.

Learning Objectives

  • Participants will learn what the first wave of civil commitment advocacy accomplished, and what it left undone, highlighting the difference among states in civil commitment: protections.
  • Participants will learn how much one determined advocate can accomplish, with examples from NARPA members, such as Jim Gottstein.
  • Participants will learn five major ways they can advocace for increased protections for people subject to civil commitment, and the most effective advocacy tool.