The Police and CMHCS: The Transition from Penal to Therapeutic Control

Document Type


Publication Date



The deinstitutionalization of chronic mental patients and the establishment of Community Mental Health Centers creates a new role for the police—i.e. agents of therapeutic control. In this new role, police must move beyond their traditional behaviors as agents of penal control, and play an active part in initiating patients to psychiatric treatment. Social scientists and mental health professionals recognize the need for police training in this area. Yet, little research has been devoted to the penal‐therapeutic transition per se. This paper examines the social structural factors necessary for such a transition, and it illustrates the methods by which CMHC professionals can manipulate their social control environments so as to fulfill these social structural “requirements”. We also discuss some non‐structural barriers to police acting as agents of therapeutic control and the prospects for overcoming them.



Published Citation

Ruane, J. M., & Cerulo, K. A. (1990). The police and CMHCS: the transition from penal to therapeutic control. Law & Policy, 12(2), 137-154.