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From Coercion to Contract: Reframing the Debate on Mandated Community Treatment for People with Mental Disorders

31 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2011  

Richard J. Bonnie

University of Virginia - School of Law

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law

Date Written: February 9, 2011

Abstract

Approximately half the people receiving treatment in the public sector for mental disorder have experienced some form of "leverage" in which deprivations such as jail or hospitalization have been avoided, or rewards such as money or housing have been obtained, contingent on treatment adherence. We argue in this Essay that framing the legal debate on mandated community treatment primarily in terms of "coercion" has become counterproductive and that the debate should be re-framed in terms of "contract." Language derived from the law of contract often yields a more accurate account of the current state of the law governing mandated community treatment, is more likely to be translated into a useful descriptive vocabulary for empirical research, and is more likely to clarify the policy issues at stake than the currently stalemated form of argumentation based on putative rights. Our hope is that adopting the language of contract may help to identify those types and features of mandated community treatment that are genuinely problematic, rather than perpetuating the unhelpful and misleading assumption that all types of leverage amount to "coercion."

Suggested Citation

Bonnie, Richard J. and Monahan, John, From Coercion to Contract: Reframing the Debate on Mandated Community Treatment for People with Mental Disorders (February 9, 2011). Law and Human Behavior, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1758839

Richard J. Bonnie (Contact Author)

University of Virginia - School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States

John Monahan

University of Virginia School of Law ( email )

580 Massie Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903
United States
434-924-3632 (Phone)

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