Advocating for Mental Health

Sarah Hoffman

As an undergraduate student studying political science, Sarah Hoffman ’21 (J.D.) interned with a public defender and was assigned to the case of a 19-year-old charged with murder. Hoffman reviewed the client’s medical history dating back to his childhood, and she realized she was looking at a case study of failed mental health care in the juvenile justice system.

“This was a person whose violent behavior was increasing in severity from the time he was five years old,” Hoffman said. “I saw him in every level of public mental health care. It does not excuse violence, but he never got any quality help at all.”

For Hoffman, this experience and a personal mental health crisis fueled her resolve to advocate for improved mental health care within prison systems. This fall, Hoffman will begin a two-year fellowship at Equal Justice Works, where she will focus on this issue for people in North Carolina prisons. Her fellowship is sponsored by American Tire Distributors and hosted by Disability Rights North Carolina.

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