“To Wander Off in Shame”: Deconstructing the Shaming and Shameful Arrest Policies of Urban Police Departments in Their Treatment of Persons with Mental Disabilities

  • Michael L. Perlin
  • Alison J. Lynch


In this chapter, we will focus on the decision-making processes made “on the street” by police officers who choose to apprehend and arrest certain cohorts of persons with mental disabilities, rather than seeking other, treatment-oriented alternatives in dealing with them. There is robust valid and reliable literature demonstrating that certain methods of training programs designed for police officers—the “Memphis Model” of crisis intervention training (CIT) is the most well known—have resulted in dramatic reductions of arrests for “nuisance crimes” and have avoided contributing to the overincarceration of this population. Yet, these approaches are far from widespread, so far appearing in only a handful of cities with any consistency, and, as a result, populations of persons with mental disabilities in urban jails like Riker’s Island continue to skyrocket. The means by which these arrests are effectuated reveal a consistent strategic deployment of humiliation as a means of controlling this stigmatized cohort of the population. The shaming nature of these encounters and arrests often leave already-vulnerable individuals feeling unheard and potentially traumatized. We will examine these issues through the filter of therapeutic jurisprudence (TJ), a new modality of solving a full range of seemingly intractable social problems. TJ teaches us that voice, validation, and voluntariness—and embracing an “ethic of care”—are central to any efforts to remediate the sort of issues we discuss here.


Humiliation Shame Dignity Therapeutic jurisprudence Police Nuisance crimes Dignity Persons with mental disabilities Crisis intervention training Memphis Model 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Michael L. Perlin
    • 1
  • Alison J. Lynch
    • 2
  1. 1.New York Law School; Mental Disability Law and Policy AssociatesNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Disability Rights New YorkBrooklynUSA

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