Major Department

Interdepartmental Studies


College of Liberal Arts & Sciences


BS (Bachelor of Science)

Session and Year of Graduation

Spring 2020

Honors Major Advisor

Sokhieng Au

Thesis Mentor

Alberto Ortiz Diaz


Around the world, nations are incarcerating individuals at alarmingly high rates. The over-incarceration of individuals for drugs and nonviolent crimes in recent history has led to an epidemic of incarceration, hindering the overall wellbeing of millions of individuals in every corner of the globe. Overcrowding, limited staffing, and underfunding represent just a few of the health and human rights challenges of international prison systems. As strategies of reformative justice through inmate rehabilitation and reintegration have gained prominence, prison systems are starting to focus on the high rates of mental illness in incarcerated populations which are further exasperated by internal prison conditions that are harmful to mental health. Societies must develop dynamic solutions to address these global health concerns. Because of the culture of recreation in carceral environments, therapeutic recreation programming with treatment goals in mental health, including both emotional and social wellbeing, is a viable solution that can be applied to save costs and better utilize existing resources. International program examples establish therapeutic recreation as a cross-cultural treatment option that can be altered to fit many different environments. Existing initiatives in the local context of Coralville, Iowa, and the global context of the Colombian National Prison System demonstrate the possible applications of therapeutic recreation in combatting the global prison epidemic.


Prison healthcare, therapeutic recreation, alternative treatment, mental health

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Copyright © 2020 Emily Brekke