Graduation Date

Spring 5-4-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Health Promotion and Disease Prevention Research

First Advisor

Sharon Medcalf

Second Advisor

Dejun Su

Third Advisor

Shireen Rajaram

Fourth Advisor

Lisa Sample


Although all prisons have the same goal of isolating offenders from society, the precise strategies used vary from one jurisdiction to the next. Some prisons use means of punishment to gain inmate compliance. Other prisons concentrate their limited resources on rehabilitation. Contained within the following pages are details of a focused ethnography that was completed in a state correctional youth facility that housed males between the ages of 15 and 21 years, all of whom were convicted of violent crimes. This study had the objective of exploring the climate of therapy in this correctional youth facility where rehabilitative programs were administered as attempts to transform the youth into law-abiding adults. Although the youth inmates were mandated to live in the correctional facility, their participation in rehabilitation was voluntary. Thus, this study explored the incentives that motivated many inmates to their participation. This study explored what few scholars referred to as the therapeutic climate, which can be thought of as the conceptual spirit that determines the rehabilitative experience of its participants. A therapeutic climate is a subjective concept of a complex system of social processes, filled with symbolic interactions, where the intent is to provide rehabilitative programs to its participants. It includes but is not limited to the rules and how they are enforced, peer and mentor support, leadership at all levels, group cohesion, physical architecture, and program integrity. Despite a therapeutic climate not including methods of punishment, as this study occurred in a correctional facility, the climate of punishment was explored as one climate affected the other. The results from this focused ethnography led to the development of a nested ecological model for a therapeutic climate. This model reveals the micro-, meso-, exo-, and macrosystem levels of influence that make a therapeutic climate. For instance, the interrelationships between the staff and the inmates; the use of incentives; staff buy-in; and program integrity that lead to program participation. The ecological model for a therapeutic climate can be used as a theoretical platform for the determination of what a therapeutic climate resembles.