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STUDY OF INSTITUTIONAL ESCAPES
Charles F. Read; David B. Rotman
Am J Psychiatry 1922;79:75-86.
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Chicago State Hospital, Dunning, Ill.

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Abstract

A formal summary of a subject of this character is impossible but from the above analysis it would seem clear that the average eloper is not the "bad man" of popular fancy. Certainly, there is no justification for the terrifying picture so often painted by the press of the dangerous moron rushing madly from the asylum for the sole purpose of gratifying his perverted desires at the expense of the innocent and unprotected. Our rcords fail to disclose any grave anti-social behavior upon the part of any of the patients in either group.If, then, the popular concept of these patients is so mistaken, what is the correct one? From the above study a composite description might run something as follows:A man in the third or fourth decade; very possibly a foreigner; most probably a single man or one free from compelling family ties and rather given to alcoholic indulgence. The chances are he would be a subsided case of dementia praƦcox, a recovered or improved alcoholic, a rebellious paretic, or an improved case of "individual reaction" type. Only one time out of 20 would he be feeble-minded and practically never a sexual pervert with criminal tendencies. He may have made prior escapes, but not more than one or two if he is to succeed in remaining out of the institution. Here, as elsewhere, the recidivist is quite hopeless. Often he has tasted liberty in the shape of an unsuccessful prior parole. The chances are about four to one that he will be returned to the hospital in a few days or weeks, and if he remains out we shall find it difficult to discover just how he accomplished it because his relatives are either assisting him or know nothing of his whereabouts.By the judicious employment of the Social Service Department in the case of non-returned elopers we are at present in closer touch with the situation, and in the future there will undoubtedly be fewer cases whose ultimate destination will remain unknown.

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