Journal of Law and Policy

First Page



Many female inmates have suffered trauma by way of interpersonal violence, which often precipitates mental health issues as well as criminal behavior later in life. Eighth Amendment jurisprudence dictates that they are entitled to adequate mental health treatment while incarcerated. Despite an influx of female inmates and the number of those requiring treatment, mental health programs in penal institutions have been designed to serve the needs of incarcerated men. Meanwhile, psychosocial scholarship has determined that mental health treatment needs to be informed by offenders’ common experiences as women and victims of gender-based violence (gender-responsive), as well as survivors of trauma (trauma-informed) to be effective. Trauma-informed and gender-responsive mental health treatment has been proven to increase institutional security and contribute to the rehabilitative function of incarceration, reducing recidivism. The failure to reform correctional mental health care to take trauma and gender into account rises to the level of deliberate indifference to the serious medical needs of female inmates. This article further considers that a combination of inconsistent standards, procedural barriers, and institutional insolvency preclude inmates from vindicating their rights, and concludes that legislative action appropriating the necessary funding is their only hope.