Luigi Gariglio

Mechanical restraint... is therapeutic. Discursive neutralization techni- ques in a forensic psychiatric hospital

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: neutralization, normalization, coercion, restraint, mental health, forensic psychiatric hospital, prison

Mechanical restraint is a tacit practice in many psychiatric inpatient settings in Italy. Forensic psychiatric hospitals can be interpreted as critical cases in terms of restraint measures due to the frequency and severity of the coercion enforced on inpatients’ bodies. This paper focuses on the discourses adopted by clinical and custodial staff working in one of these «hospitals» that is well known for its punitive reputation. The theoretical framework is grounded on theories of neutralization. Four discursive techniques of neutralization emerging during interviews conducted with clinical (10) and custodial (14) staff are discussed: i) harm minimization; ii) limitation of liability; iii) denial of the victim; and lastly, what I call iv) invention of the function (mechanical restraint is therapeutic). The aim of this paper is twofold: first, to understand the reasons adopted by staff for using coercive measures in order to contrast them and help develop new counter discourses to support no-restraint approaches. Second, to explore the fruitfulness and limitations of the adoption of neutralization theories in empirical research.

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