Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Educational Leadership

First Advisor

Dr.Carla Sparks

Second Advisor

Dr. Dawn Coffin


ABSTRACT More than two million adolescents and young adults are interconnected with the justice system every year. An alarming number of transitional age young adults (ages 17-25 years) in the United States justice system suffer with serious emotional problems that have at least one diagnosable mental health illness. The multiple needs for rehabilitation among these young adults have often gone unmet, and thus, they have become an extremely vulnerable subgroup in the justice system. The purpose of this study was to explore issues of disparity within mental health services, the justice system, and the unmet needs of transitional age young adults. I utilized a qualitative methodology in this study to conduct surveys and interviews with professionals in mental health services. The results of this study suggested that possible solutions to meeting the needs of transitional age young adults with mental health concerns who have any association with the judicial system include federal funding to provide resources and services for mental health assistance in addressing their needs.


As a society, we want our children to be safe, healthy, happy, and connected to others in a positive, loving manner. As a parent, I do whatever I can to ensure those outcomes for my children. Professionals who work in the mental health services share the same goals for the young adults and families they serve. Researching and writing this dissertation has been beneficial to me and has enhanced my knowledge and skill development in areas ranging from mental health services to the justice system. Furthermore, I am truly thankful and appreciative to the mentors and their valuable inputs vi inside and outside this program whose great sources of wisdom and guidance during times have helped when I struggled in developing and improving my leadership skills. The significance of this research study to the body of research is its aim to identify gaps and unmet needs/services to raise awareness among mental health service providers about young adults in the judicial system. A lesson which I have learned through personal and professional experience is that successful leaders do not know everything and may not always realize that they are deficient in understanding. There are always “aha” moments.