U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Recollections of the Dilemma About State Hospitals in 1948, Compared With the Dilemma in Corrections in 1977

NCJ Number
Bulletin of the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law Volume: 6 Issue: 2 Dated: (1978) Pages: 147-153
K A Menninger
Date Published
7 pages
In answer to the debate over solutions to the overcrowded conditions in Kansas prisons, Dr. Karl Menninger cites the development of community-based mental health care, draws a parallel between providing for committed mental patients and providing for convicted criminals, and recommends expansion of probation programs.
Despite initial opposition, outpatient care for the mentally ill came to replace hospitalization as a standard form of care. However, the current argument by certain corrections professionals and the public against alternatives to imprisonment echoes the previous concern over releasing the mentally ill to community care. Of those guilty of lawbreaking in Kansas, 98 percent are released and only 2 percent are imprisoned. This fraction overcrowds decrepit, outmoded, inefficient, and expensive State prisons and county jails. The governor and the corrections secretary propose a new prison to provide for the overflow and to improve management and programming for the prisoners. Yet experts agree that 75 percent of those detained would be better off if they were selectively released on probation. Concerned citizens' groups call for improving the penal system through community care and local responsibility for distributing and supervising the caseload. In order to resolve this conflict, it is recommended that a panel of expert out-of-state consultants meet with the governor to discuss immediate and long-range policies. The staff of the Kansas Diagnostic Center should screen several hundred occupants of the Lansing and Hutchinson Prisons to select individuals whose past records, personality structures, hometown environments, and prison behavior records warrant release on parole. A restitution law should be enacted to correct the imbalance between innocent victims and locked-up offenders. Additional well-trained probation officers are also needed. Finally, the State should study existing alternatives to incarceration, such as the work release projects found in Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota.