An institution is an establishment that tends to cover all the persons’ needs under one roof and all aspects of a person’s life by specific rules and authority. Although this feature is common to all institutions, they differ from each other (in some places, one feature prevails, in others, another).
The characteristics of the institutions are as follows:
- cover all individual needs (including leisure),
- transition between statuses is difficult (for a user to become employed),
- disciplinary techniques,
- use of coercion (an increase of medicines, restraint, etc.),
- the daily life of users is adjusted to the schedule and work of employees,
- collective treatment of people (no individual approach),
- geographical distance from cities,
- the requirements and interests of the organization usually take precedence over the individual needs of users,
- residents are separated from the wider community and/or forced to live together,
- residents do not have enough control over their lives and the decisions that affect them.
The European guidelines for the transition from institutional to community-based care outline many reasons why living in institutions is not suitable for anyone. Namely, institutions often confiscate personal property from users, offer them only a rigid routine, users have minimal contact (or no contact at all) with people outside the institution, and so on.
The Common European Guidelines for the Transition from Institutional to Community Care authors highlighted psychological and sexual abuse, excessive use of coercive means, inhumane and unhealthy living conditions, unhealthy food, impurity, etc., as harmful. Institutionalization also leads to poorer social and community services (not so much demand as most users is in the institution) and consequently leads to discrimination and social exclusion of people with disabilities or mental health problems.