The ever-evolving question of what the legal requirements are regarding providing mental health care in prisons has been debated for decades. This thesis presents a meta-analysis that examines the Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause in regards to the mentally ill in the Criminal Justice System and applies it to present day prison systems in the United States. This research creates a clear picture of the inadequate care that is provided and the systemic issues that allow this level of mistreatment and lack of care to prevail. It examines the requirements for mental health care as set by the Eighth Amendment, as well as how the factors of overcrowding, the privatization of prisons, and the training of correctional officers have on mentally ill inmates. This analysis will also provide research for how the factors listed specifically impact Kentucky. Finally, it will examine potential solutions, such as the development of mental health courts, community programs, and reforms that could be introduced to each systematic issue. This analysis will utilize examples of case law, state statutes, as well as previous studies to not only look at the potential legal defenses of the mentally ill in the United States prison system. But as well as what specific aspects of the Criminal Justice System are the most impactful in the allowance of the abuse and mistreatment of the mentally ill in prisons across the nation.

Semester/Year of Award

Fall 11-30-2022


Sophie H. Owen

Mentor Department Affiliation

Justice Studies

Access Options

Open Access Thesis

Document Type

Bachelor Thesis

Degree Name

Honors Scholars

Degree Level



Justice Studies