2015 - Alina Bennett, PhD

Alina Bennett, PhDTitle of dissertation:  “The Therapeutic Roles of Reading, Writing, And Theatrical Performance In Recovery From Moral Injury And Social Death During and After Incarceration.”   
Dissertation Committee:  Laura Hermer, JD, LLM (Chair), Anne Hudson Jones, Ph.D., Michele Carter, Ph.D., Jason Glenn, Ph.D., Jacques Baillargeon, PhD, and Jonathan Shay, MD, PhD.
Summary of Dissertation:
Mental health is a pressing issue among the US population of incarcerated people. Approximately 33 percent of people in state and federal correctional facilities have one or more diagnosable mental disorders. Many inmates experience traumatic events prior to their incarceration. These traumas often lead to emotional, spiritual and mental suffering, which may be exacerbated by the conditions of incarceration. Inmates with mental-health challenges suffer a disproportionate risk of suicide and self-harming practices. Due, in part, to a lack of appropriate financial-allocation decisions, many correctional facilities offer scant mental-health care in either direct clinical-service provision or the area of programming. This research explores the potential role of humanities practices in the restoration of mental wellbeing among the incarcerated. Through close reading, this study demonstrates that creative practices such as reading, writing, and theatrical performance have been historically used to relieve suffering. The therapeutic utility of these nontraditional healing practices justifies their increased application in prison-based and probationary reentry programming


Alina earned a Bachelor degree in Gender and Feminist Studies from Pitzer College in Claremont, California and comes to the Institute for Medical Humanities from The Ohio State University (OSU) where she completed her Masters in Women's Studies with a graduate minor in Disability Studies. After graduating, Alina worked as a Lecturer at OSU, teaching both introductory and advanced women's health courses. Teaching women's health helped solidify Alina's commitment to the field of feminist health studies and her research focuses on healthcare ethics, health policy and the history of medicine with a focus on disability.  Here at the IMH, Alina is interested in the role of public mental health and its connection to the prison industrial complex.  Alina is simultaneously completing a second master’s degree in public health (MPH) through the Department of Preventive Medicine and Community Health at UTMB.  She is gearing up to bring the worlds of the medical humanities and public health together in her dissertation work which will focus on mental health and one day hopes to find a work home in an academic medical or university setting with interludes into public and private sector work, health policy development and disability activism.  In May 2015, she earned her PhD in Medical Humanities.  She is currently employed at MD Anderson as a clinical ethics fellow for 2015-2016.

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