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Student Spotlight: Sophie Owen

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Sophie Owen, an impressive senior in the Criminal Justice program in the School of Justice Studies, has worked with her Professor, Christina Dewhurst, on writing and presenting her honors thesis, titled "Wait, is That Legal? A Defense of the Rights of the Mentally Ill in the United States Prison System." Sophie has presented her research at the Kentucky Honors Roundtable at the University of Kentucky on October 29th, 2022, and at the National Collegiate Honors Council in Dallas, Texas on November 4th, 2022. In speaking about her thesis, Sophie says, "this thesis presents a meta-analysis that examines the Eighth Amendment Cruel and Unusual Punishment Clause as it relates to the mentally ill in the Criminal Justice System, as well as applying 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 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, impact mentally ill inmates. This analysis also includes information about how the factors listed specifically impact Kentucky. Finally, it examines potential solutions, such as the development of mental health courts, community programs, and reforms that could be introduced to each systematic issue."

Sophie is currently working on an extension of her thesis research to spread awareness about the issue. She is conducting interviews with professionals throughout the Criminal Justice System to learn more about their perspective on mental illness, the challenges it presents, and what they can do in their role to address the problem. Sophie will include these interviews in podcasts she created with Dr. Betsy Matthews in efforts to educate students, citizens, and Criminal Justice professionals about the pressing issue of inadequate care afforded the mentally ill in the United States criminal justice system. We, in the School of Justice Studies, are all very excited to see what Sophie finds in her research and are impressed with her hard work and passion for the topic. 

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Published on February 28, 2023

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