First Advisor

Deborah Rutt

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Psychology and University Honors




Prisoners -- Mental health services -- United States, Animals -- Therapeutic use, Mentally ill prisoners, Criminals -- Rehabilitation -- United States




The following text will detail the pervasiveness of mental health issues in prisons as a nationwide problem. This provides an important context and poses the urgent research questions of (1) how prisons can realistically attempt to lower the impact of mental health issues that are plaguing more incarcerated individuals than not in the United States, (2) why prisons should be concerned with measuring a program’s impact on mental health, and (3) what outcome measures of mental health can be realistically and conveniently implemented to begin collecting data. Prison-based animal programs (PAPs) are presented as one such way that this can be accomplished. While a program of this nature cannot cure mental illness per se and should not be considered an all-encompassing solution, it most certainly can serve as a buffer in conjunction with any necessary mental health services. To adequately review the relevant literature, this paper will describe the origins of animal-facilitated interventions for historical context, followed by an overview of literature on animal-assisted therapy (AAT) and animal-assisted activities (AAA) with individuals with mental illness. The literature on PAPs, specifically, will be covered, noting gaps in the literature and implications for the field. The paper will conclude with direct implications for prison administration regarding the need for outcome measures--specifically for measuring impact on mental health--and the proposal of three distinct outcome measures of mental health that can be used to assess and compare levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.


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