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decarceration The process of removing people from institutions such as prisons or mental hospitals—the opposite of incarceration. In the middle of the twentieth century, this became a central feature in the reorganization of social control, and is closely allied to programmes of community care and community control. The reasons for this change are discussed in Andrew Scull's controversial book Decarceration (1984). Another linked concept is transcarceration, in which people are moved sideways from one kind of institution to another.