Sociology ETDs

Publication Date



An effort is made to analyze the labeling perspective by contrasting the clinical vs. the societal reaction model. Erving Goffman's and Thomas J. Scheff's theory of ascribed deviance with its social consequences, and Kai Erikson's conception of role-validation and role-commitment are utilized to examine its effects on the mentally ill. In this critical analysis of current commitment procedures attention is drawn to the field of forensic psychiatry, the medicolegal criteria, to the laws and statutes, and to concepts such as mental illness, insanity, and dangerousness. These concepts are vague, undefined, and ambiguous. They are not defined in objective scientific terms and rely on subjective value and moral criteria. Special interest is placed on the case study of commitment hearings. The findings suggest that decision-making and sole power are allocated to the expert witness, namely, the physician/psychiatrist. His testimony determines the outcome of court orders. The data supports the propositions that court-appointed counsels fail to represent patients adequately. Instead of defending their clients, they merely play a ceremonial function, and perform a perfunctory role. The findings further suggest that most commitment hearings are an empty ritual with a make-believe in due-process.

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First Committee Member (Chair)

Kai T. Erikson

Second Committee Member

Theodore Abel

Third Committee Member

Pedro Rubens David



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Sociology Commons