William & Mary Journal of Race, Gender, and Social Justice


In the United States, almost 60,000 juveniles are incarcerated in juvenile jails and prisons every day, and, as of March 2021, at least seventy percent of juveniles in the juvenile justice system have a mental health condition. For many young adults, prison and detention centers have “become the avenue of last resort” for treatment of those mental health conditions. However, juvenile detention facilities lack the support and resources to provide adequate care, which has led to high recidivism in the juvenile population. Juveniles, and individuals on their behalf, can challenge inadequate access to mental health resources by bringing claims under the Eighth Amendment and the Due Process Clause under the Fourteenth Amendment. In evaluating these claims, federal courts are split on whether to use the Deliberate Indifference Standard or the Professional Judgment Standard, which requires a lower standard of culpability than the Deliberate Indifference Standard. This Note argues that, because juveniles are an extremely vulnerable group, the Professional Judgment Standard should be applied in evaluating claims of inadequate mental health care in juvenile detention facilities. By using this standard, more institutions could be held accountable for inadequate care, which could lead to improved access to mental health care in juvenile detention facilities.