Criminalization Hypothesis

The term criminalization typically refers to a process in which behaviors once not defined as illegal become so through a legislative process. The world of substance use and abuse includes numerous such examples. In the United States, the use and possession of LSD, for example, was not illegal until the mid-1960s. Alcohol production and consumption in the United States was criminalized at one point and then de-criminalized when the legislation supporting it was repealed. What has come to be called the criminalization of mental illness, or the criminalization hypothesis, has a somewhat different narrative. While having a psychiatric illness itself is not criminal, some of the behaviors that may stem from an individual’s illness are defined as illegal, opening up the individual to arrest. ...

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