Traditionally, the power of the state has included the power to commit mentally ill citizens to psychiatric hospitals against their will. The state's authority to confine the mentally ill rests upon two distinct legal doctrines: parens patriae and police power. Under its parens patriae authority, the state acts on behalf of certain individuals who are believed incapable of acting in their own best interest. The police power authorizes the state to confine certain persons for prevention of harm to the community.
Durham, Mary L. and La Fond, John Q.
"The Empirical Consequences and Policy Implications of Broadening the Statutory Criteria for Civil Commitmentt,"
Yale Law & Policy Review: Vol. 3
, Article 6.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/ylpr/vol3/iss2/6