Amberle Heath

Date Approved


Date Posted


Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department or School

Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminology

Committee Member

Peter Wood, Ph.D., Chair

Committee Member

Kimberly Barrett, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brian Sellers, Ph.D.


In 2005, more than half of all prison and jail inmates had a mental health problem, and correctional institutions had replaced all other mental health facilities to become America's primary venue for the treatment of mental disorder. Further, the proportion of the correctional population that is mentally ill is increasing significantly faster than the correctional population itself. From 1998 to 2005, while the overall correctional population increased 20.8 percent, the mentally ill correctional population increased 27.3 percent. This thesis discusses the most recent literature that documents this increase, and presents reasons for it, including deinstitutionalization, the criminalization of the mentally ill, and behavioral problems in prison. Mental Health Courts (MHCs) were created in response to the increase in mentally ill offenders. A detailed overview of MHCs is provided, as is a discussion of their theoretical underpinnings, and what makes these courts effective. The thesis concludes with a summary, discussion of limitations, theoretical and policy implications, and recommendations for future research.

Included in

Criminology Commons