Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MS in Dance/Movement Therapy

First Advisor

Elise Risher


Mass incarceration in the United States disproportionately impacts Black people, poor people, and people with serious mental illnesses. The criminalization of poverty, systemic racism, and deinstitutionalization combine to create a nation in which significantly higher numbers of individuals with serious mental illnesses are receiving treatment in jails and prisons rather than psychiatric hospitals. While mental healthcare in jails and prisons has shown improvement in recent years, limited resources and negative public sentiment continue to restrict the effectiveness of mental healthcare for incarcerated individuals. There is a profound need for embodiment and empowerment in jails and prisons, and dance/movement therapy offers one avenue for integrated care. Dance/movement therapy research in jails and prisons is limited but promising, suggesting that the modality has potential for helping individuals transcend the harsh reality of incarceration. Following the framework of early dance/movement therapist Trudi Schoop, dance/movement therapists working with incarcerated individuals may facilitate joyful self-expression through the embodiment of fantasies, dreams, and desires. The experience of incarceration is antithetical to rehabilitation, but embodied escapism makes space for feelings of freedom.