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Theses Master's

Public Vs. Private: The Effect of Profit Seeking in Caring for America’s Mentally Ill Incarcerated Youth

Lunde, Gry Hanna

The U.S. criminal justice system has become the largest caretaker for the mentally ill population, and the prevalence of mental illness in the juvenile justice population is particularly high. Due to a shortage of available community-based mental health services, many youth rely on the juvenile justice system to provide them with necessary care. Although they have a constitutional right to adequate treatment while they are incarcerated, they are met with severe inadequacies in the system. The dramatic increase in the prison population emerging as a result of the stricter sentencing policies introduced in the final decades of the last century, created a high demand for private services in the field. This thesis is exploring the intersection of the use of private health care contractors with the comprehensive mental health needs of a young prison population, all in the perspective of the human rights violations suffered by this vulnerable group of individuals. By examining Department of Justice investigations from the inside of these facilities, as well as collecting opinions from advocates and experts in the criminal justice field, the thesis argues that privatization in the criminal justice system as it stands today, surrounded by a lack of transparency and accountability, reduces the likelihood for the human and constitutional rights of mentally ill youth to be fulfilled.

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Academic Units
Institute for the Study of Human Rights
Degree
M.A., Columbia University
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