Date of Award


Document Type




First Advisor

Kristjen B. Lundberg


The current U.S. criminal justice system has a disproportionate number of people suffering from mental illness. Additionally, many of these prisons not only lack the ability to properly treat these individuals, but in some cases may even worsen the problem. Public support, and importantly whom the public thinks the prototypical prisoner is, is important to know when advocating for reform. This research aims to investigate whether or not racialized perceptions of the U.S. criminal justice system impact support for mental healthcare reform in prisons. Given the exploratory nature of this work, potentially relevant individual difference variables are also investigated. An online sample of White-identifying U.S. adults (N = 374) reported high levels of support for mental healthcare reform in prisons, which was unaffected by perceived racial composition of the prison population. Individual difference measures, including empathy for and dehumanization of prisoners, were found to be correlated with levels of support. Implications for researchers and advocates are discussed. Additionally, this paper offers an important psychological investigation of people’s perceptions of the rehabilitative, as opposed to the punitive, nature of the U.S.’s criminal justice system.