An Interdisciplinary Analysis of Mental Health in the United States Incarceration System




McDowell, Marigrace

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Since the mid to late 20th century, incarceration facilities in the US have served as de facto psychiatric institutions for many Americans. At the same time, the rise of mass incarceration overburdened the incarceration system, which has struggled to respond to the growing capacity and resource demands. This thesis explores the issues of identifying mental illness in the incarceration system, diverting individuals experiencing mental illness from the system, and offering sufficient resources to those already incarcerated. Through an interdisciplinary approach, including international, historical, legal, administrative, and policy analyses, the inconsistencies across political and administrative systems become apparent. Improved treatments, diversion mechanisms, and assessment measures serve as starting points for improvement. Most importantly, comprehensive reform requires a shared, public commitment to separate healthcare from the punitive conditions of incarceration systems. It necessitates a collective choice, in policies, programs, and public discourse, to provide health care which preserves patient dignity and well-being, especially in communities so often deprived of both.



Mental health., Incarceration system.