California “CARE Court” Forces Unhoused People into Treatment

ACLU responds to “Care Court,” stressing that peopled dignified care, not forced treatment.


California Governor Gavin Newsom’s so-called “CARE Court” plan creates a new court system that subjects unhoused people with mental health disabilities to involuntary treatment. In a recent response, the civil rights advocacy group American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) stresses that the solution to California’s homelessness crisis is permanent housing and dignified care, not compulsory mental health treatment.

In the U.S., Black and minority youth are more likely to be subject to forced treatment or hospitalization. In Canada, Black persons with first-episode psychosis experienced more coercive referrals via police, ambulance, and court order than other ethnic-racial groups. The California governor’s recent proposal, which would force even more individuals into care mainly based on their access to housing (or lack thereof), would further entrench the racial disparities in our society and our mental health treatment institutions.

As ACLU Homelessness policy analyst Eve Garrow and Staff Attorney Kath Rogers write:

“The harms of the ‘CARE Court’ framework will inevitably fall hardest on Black, brown, and Indigenous people, who are routinely misdiagnosed with serious mental health disabilities. Entangling people in the legal system would traumatize those most heavily impacted by our failed systems. Moreover, the plan would perpetuate racial disparities through an adversarial court process that does nothing to address the underlying structural conditions that lead to houselessness.”

Indeed, the CARE court proposal has sparked outrage from multiple civil rights groups, who stress that California has an affordable housing crisis and that unhoused people are being forced to pay for the consequences of inaction by the state. “The people who need help the most can’t afford to wait as the state chases an idea that has failed before,” write Garrow and Rogers. “Unhoused community members deserve a plan that is proven to meet their housing and service needs, and that truly helps them to heal.”

By coercing people into treatment, survivor-researcher Indigo Daya argues, we avoid confronting the social, political, and material forces that cause a mental difference in the first place.

“In locking us away,” she writes, “it is so much easier for society to pretend that the original harms never happened at all. Society can hold on to false but comfortable beliefs that institutional harms live only in history books, that inequality is a battle largely won, that the world is a safe place.”

Similarly, by framing California’s housing crisis as a failure of individuals to participate in necessary mental health treatment, Governor Newsom’s “CARE court” proposal sits comfortably within a long tradition of “fixes” to social problems that conveniently disguise their deeper roots.



Garrow, E., and Rogers, K. (2022). “Why we vehemently oppose the governor’s “CARE Court” proposal — and so should you.” ACLU of Southern California (online). (Link)

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Jenny Logan
Jenny Logan is an Associate Faculty member at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research and a PhD student in law at Birkbeck College, University of London. Jenny has worked as a special education teacher in the Bronx, New York, and more recently in fair housing and environmental justice movements in Portland, Oregon. A psychiatric survivor, she is interested in the political economy of child sexual abuse and psychiatry's role in the erasure of various forms of oppression.


  1. “In locking us away,” she writes, “it is so much easier for society to pretend that the original harms never happened at all. Society can hold on to false but comfortable beliefs that institutional harms live only in history books, that inequality is a battle largely won, that the world is a safe place.”

    Phenomenal quote. Thank you for this article.

    What can we do to stand with californian psych survivors?

    -Anotherone. Here to assist in resistance efforts.

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  2. This Orwellian plan must be unconstitutional.

    It’s also pointless. As if “treatment” magically cured “mental illness,” after which nonexistent housing would suddenly appear.

    No, it’s about NIMBY rich folks wanting to get “those people” out of sight. That’s all it is, IMO.

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    • Miranda, great point and thanks for introducing me to that acronym. Another commenter here spoke of Newsom’s co-conspirator, Darrell Steinberg, having institutionalized his daughter in an out-of-state facility when she was 13. Did Steinberg put his daughter in the troubled teen industry and is the tti-mentality informing these policies? I think discovering those connections could help Californian psych survivors. Especially since the ‘cash for kids’ scams in California were found to have profitted the tti enormously.

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  3. “Anarchists and professional protesters” is what our Premier called people who were living in tents in a City Park.

    I note that the lack of affordable housing (or any housing for that matter) is as a direct result of the negligence of planners within government. Our Premier recently called Scrooge McDuck for his hoarding of the taxes he has been taking in, and not spending because of the cost of labour. (though large bonuses for our Politicians seem to be exempt).

    There is an element of a ‘planned crisis’ about all of this, with investment properties increasing exponentially in price. But you won’t see journalists examining the real causes, simply pointing to the problem.

    One program last week “A Place to Call Home” (4 Corners) asking zero questions about why there has been a lack of foresight on the part of successive governments. It seemed a fairly simple equation…. how many people, how many houses will we need………. oh sorry, the labour is needed elsewhere now for the mining industry, and the money is being diverted into the pockets of a select few.

    Sadly I can see us now sliding down the path of disposing of these unproductive members of society, and we have had enough foresight to pass laws allowing us to do so (Euthanasia Laws with after the fact due process [and no numbers to be kept on the people accessing the ‘assistance’] resulting in a man being delivered to the Morgue before he was even dead lol A mere ‘technicality’ the about to happen cover up will no doubt tell us).

    Mind you, I think many of the so called ‘middle class’ are now finding out how quick the fall to homelessness can be, even when you have a full time job. Work shall make you free to live in your car…. and then require ‘treatments’ should you complain.

    “Jesus wept, Jesus Christ. I can’t see for the tear gas, and the Dollar signs in my eyes. But what’s a man got left to fight for when he’s lost his freedom? By the look of this human jungle It ain’t just the Poor who’ll be bleeding”

    “Come on down, the Devils in Town”

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  4. Given the cost of institutionalizing people in an asylum, if that money went to actually building housing it would help a lot more people than those who end up being given a chemical imbalance or having one maintained that wasn’t there before treatment. But that’s an old story the same as people willing to sacrifice a goat a virgin or their first born son to show their compliance with brainwashing. This fantasy that you just have to go along with doing what you’re told… And one can ignore that psychiatric drugs cause chemical imbalance rather than treating it, as well as ignore that there’s a housing crisis for lack of affordable housing. And who is showing signs of being non-reality-based?

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    • Nijinsky, great points! The powers at be are full of it. This country has the houses, space, money, everything to take care of its people. There are currently more empty houses than there are unhoused! We pay the government to provide a social security net. Where’s all that money? Why can’t any of it go to housing?

      Yes, these policies are *delusional* (by their own definition) and yes, the authorities are corrupt and at this point they’re just flexing their fascism. Glad the ACLU is on the case. Hope the care court survivors get bank in lawsuits. APAB

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