Date of Award

Fall 12-15-2022

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Forensic Psychology



First Advisor or Mentor

Philip T. Yanos

Second Reader

Rebecca Weiss

Third Advisor

Sarah DeMarco


People residing in American prisons have the legal right to mental health care while incarcerated (Justia, 2021). This is important, as the prevalence of mental disorders is high in this population (Prins, 2014), and incarceration is a psychologically damaging experience, which hinders a person’s success at rehabilitation. Numerous of issues related to the mental health services (MHSs) in both public and private prison facilities have been reported in recent years, which warrants systematic exploration. The little existing research comparing the presence of MHSs in these facilities has produced mixed results, it uses out-of-date datasets, and none has explored MHSs in detail. This thesis aimed to expand upon previous research by observing the present-day policies and procedures of 57 American facilities via publicly available online materials: 29 public and 28 private prisons randomly selected from states that contained a private prison. It explored what kinds of services were available, what factors may be associated with their availability, how transparent the facilities were with this information, and the questionable media associated with a facility’s health or mental health services. It was hypothesized that facilities that were private, in less wealthy states, and/or in rural communities would host fewer MHSs, and that private facilities would be less transparent with their information than public facilities. The results indicated that the private and public facilities, regardless of additional characteristics, generally had similar types and amounts of services available to their residents. Private facilities were associated with greater questionable media than were their public counterparts, however. While the MHSs in prison facilities appear to be comprehensive, there may still be deeper issues that require further exploration for the good of those residing within them.



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