Dr. Anne Parsons’ research on the history of mass incarceration of individuals with mental illnesses has culminated in a new book: “From Asylum to Prison: Deinstitutionalization and the Rise of Mass Incarceration after 1945.”
Published in early October by UNC Press, “From Asylum to Prison” charts how the politics of mass incarceration shaped the deinstitutionalization of psychiatric hospitals and mental health policy making.
Throughout the book, Parsons reveals that the asylum did not die during deinstitutionalization. Instead, it returned in the modern prison industrial complex as the government shifted to a more punitive, institutional approach to social deviance. Parsons shows how the lack of community-based services, a fear-based politics around mental illness, and the economics of institutions meant that closing mental hospitals fed a cycle of incarceration that became an epidemic.
In addition to the book, Parsons is also curating a traveling exhibition titled “Care and Custody: A History of Mental Health,” sponsored by the National Library of Medicine. The exhibition will open in 2020 and will travel for approximately five years to cities across the country, including Greensboro.