Public Policy Center, University of Nebraska


Date of this Version

June 2000


Published in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 18 (2000), pp. 427–444. Copyright © 2000 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Used by permission.


Psychiatric hospital recidivism has been and continues to be a persistent problem in treating individuals with chronic mental illness. Conditional release, a form of involuntary outpatient commitment, has been suggested as one possible solution. Guided by therapeutic jurisprudence, this article presents a proposal about conditional release that would maximize convergence of social values and would be empirically testable. Specifically, a scientifically validated treatment intervention for individuals with chronic mental illness, contingency management, is integrated with conditional release. From this proposal, a number of empirical hypotheses and legal questions about discharging psychiatric patients are generated and discussed.

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