Year of Publication


Date of Thesis


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Occupational Therapy

Subject Categories

Pre-release programs for prisoners; Prison educators; Prisoners -- Life skills guides


Occupational therapy is a broad discipline, but one that aims to help people who experience a variety of impairments to function and manage their daily life. A large population of adults in America experience dysfunction in managing their daily life, and often receive inadequate support to improve. Nearly 2 million adults are incarcerated in the U.S. penal system. Most prisoners will eventually be released back into communities where they are responsible for maintaining their individual roles as productive members of society, but many struggle to do so. The purpose of this phenomenological study was to explore the role of occupational therapy in corrections settings. Four occupational therapists working with criminal populations were contacted and agreed to participate. The corrections settings represented in the sample included a Federal Medical Center with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a state prison, and secure forensic units within a state psychiatric hospital. Three interviews were conducted with each participant to ascertain the lived experience of working as an occupational therapist in a correctional setting with a criminal population. Qualitative data analysis revealed three emergent themes representing the roles of each occupational therapist within corrections: safety and security, people are people, and advocacy. The findings of the study are novel in that this is a first reported attempt to obtain explicit details of the work of an occupational therapist in a variety of corrections settings. The implications of these findings suggest that there is justification for occupational therapy to establish corrections as a recognized area of practice.



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