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Abstract

This Note is an examination of mentally illinmates' constitutional right to treatment. It has significant doctrinal and practical implications. In terms of doctrine, the Supreme Court has created distinct standards for the minimum levels of care for inmates (Estelle) and the civilly committed mentally ill (Youngberg). Under this framework mentally ill inmates are constitutionally equivalent to inmates generally, but are entitled to less care than the civilly committed even if they suffer the same illness. This Note explores this gap through the lens of equal protection and argues that mentally ill inmates are similarly situated to the civilly committed. It further contends that inmates constitute a "discrete and insular minority" and thus the standard establishing their right to care should be subject to strict scrutiny. This Note finds that Estelle fails this test.

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