Submission Date


Document Type




Faculty Mentor

Kneia DaCosta


Presented during the 17th Annual Summer Fellows Symposium, July 24, 2015 at Ursinus College.

Project Description

Currently, US prisons are home to 10 times more mentally ill individuals than state psychiatric hospitals. Instead of treating those with mental illness, an extremely vulnerable population is being thrown behind bars. Mental illness is often exacerbated during incarceration, leaving inmates much sicker than when they entered. Moreover, upon discharge mentally ill inmates have virtually no support, making recidivism almost inevitable. This lack of treatment has devastating consequences for the mentally ill as well as the community at large. Removing the mentally ill from jails and prisons would reduce recidivism, increase public safety and save money.

The current research explores the circumstances that led to a vast number of mentally ill recycling through our nation’s correctional system. This paper also highlights current jail/prison practices in dealing with the mentally ill. Primary focus is on female inmate populations, who present unique circumstances, needs and concerns. My project has been inspired by 3 years of volunteer work educating inmates at Montgomery County Correctional Facility. This experience has been translated into a collection of vignettes. Stories about the women I have encountered provide concrete cases through which to consider various problems and solutions. My research and firsthand experience has been synthesized into one final piece: a draft for an intervention program for mentally ill female inmates. This program addresses the specific needs of women and introduces ideas for effective changes within our nation’s correctional system.

Open Access

Available to all.