The Public Interest

Can “Rights” Reform Social Policy?

Thomas J. Main

Summer 1985

SOCIAL REFORM conceived by activist lawyers and undertaken through the courts has been with us for the last 20 years. Mental health policy has been radically changed by such newly discovered legal principles as “the right to treatment” and “the right to the least restrictive environment.” The management of schools, prisons, and homes for the mentally retarded has experienced similar, radical changes through court action.

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