Beyond Asylum and Jail: Protecting and Treating People Disabled by Mental Illness

Attention: Health, political, and legal writers and editors

Media contact: Susan Gluss, UC Berkeley School of Law, 510.642.6936,

What: The media frenzy that recently surrounded the involuntary psychiatric commitment of singer Britney Spears brought to the American consciousness the concept of a 72-hour hold—a legal requirement of the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act (LPS) for “mentally disordered persons.” The 1967 law was intended to “end the inappropriate, indefinite, and involuntary commitment of mentally disordered persons.” Despite its noble objectives, LPS has led to many unforeseen consequences, moving the seriously mentally ill from state hospitals to the streets and to prisons. Indeed, as a result, critics say the Los Angeles County Jail has become the nation’s largest mental institution.

At this one-day symposium, mental health experts and legal scholars will discuss how to fix a law that has backfired, as countless individuals suffering from mental illness have ended up as criminals in our legal system. Panelists will share their vision for creating a new safety-net to prevent homelessness and the criminalization of the mentally ill.

The conference is co-sponsored by the UCLA Semel Institute, The Commonwealth Club, and the San Francisco Foundation. For an agenda, speakers list, directions, and registration, visit

When: Tuesday, May 27, 2008, 9 a.m.—5 p.m

Where: Participants may attend the symposium at UC Berkeley’s Wheeler Auditorium or UCLA’s Semel Institute Auditorium. The entire event will be video-conferenced live between Berkeley and Los Angeles and digitally recorded for online video streaming and podcasting. See UC Berkeley campus map at:

Who: Conference participants include:

Pete Earley, author, Crazy, A Father’s Search Through America’s Mental Health Madness;
Dr. Peter Whybrow, chair, Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, and physician-in-chief of the Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital; director of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA;
Dr. Paul Appelbaum, psychiatry professor, Medicine & Law, Columbia University School of Medicine;
Jonathan Simon, associate dean, and law professor, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law.

Details: The program is FREE and lunch will be provided. Media interested in attending should please RSVP to or by noon day of event.