Jail Is No Place For Your Mental Health!
Updated: Jan 15
Disclaimer: This blog post is proudly sponsored by Mindvalley, but all opinions are my own. Mindvalley is the largest online personal growth platform in the world. Choose from hundreds of personal growth programs and transformative content taught by brilliant minds, with results that stick. Mindvalley's mission is to create personal transformation that raises human consciousness. As a Mindvalley affiliate, we may receive compensation, if you purchase products or services through the links provided, at no extra cost to you. This helps support the running of the blog.
Studies have conistantly shown that the prevalence of mental health disorders is higher in people who are in prison, compared to the general population. All signs point to the deterioration of the mental health of inmates is due to the effect of the deprivation of liberty.
Various investigations have reported high rates of depression, anxiety disorders and psychotic disorders in the period of confinement.
The article Mental disorders and mental health symptoms during imprisonment: A three-year follow-up study, was published by the American scientific journal Plos One in March 2019 and addresses a topic that unfortunately has seen little research. Perhaps this is a reflection of how we as a society see prisons and it's inmates.
Let's look at the findings of this study and what it can tell us about imprisonment and mental health. Hopefully, we can find some answers to these tough questions.
What Mental Health Conditions Were Most Common?
The way the experiment was conducted revealed clear improvements in inmates' mental health over time after their release.
The study recruited a sample of people recruited at the time of entry into the penal system in 2013. That initial sample was 227 men and 198 women.
In the investigation and follow-up, there were 73 people who returned to prison, including 53 men and 20 women. Men have more violent crimes and average longer sentences, therefore in the follow-up, the sample was asymmetric with more men than women.
It was found that 70% had a personality disorder, which was the most constant condition over time. Half had drug use disorder, a third had major depression, and a third had an anxiety disorder, and 14% had psychosis.
Jail Is No Place For Rehabilitation
Mental health disorders are more common among prisoners than in the general population. And prisoners with untreated mental illness are more likely to be arrested again after being released.
But prisoners' access to medical care, including mental health care, varies from prison to prison. This is in part because funding varies annually due to budgetary constraints and changing policies that require the use of funds for other purposes. And public support for rehabilitation is constantly fluctuating. Access to mental health care can help inmates regain control over their lives and can lead to better individual and public safety outcomes upon release from prison.
But despite the fact that mental illness is constantly associated with criminal behaviour, these conditions are not often addressed by the prison system. Prisons were designed to incarcerate inmates, not to rehabilitate them. They are underfunded and provide poor living conditions. The exact type of environment that can quickly contribute to a deteriorating state of mental health.
Jail Is No Place For Your Mental Health
Prisons are also not a very easy place for health professionals to work, so it is very difficult for prison administrators to find trained medical staff willing to work in such a hostile environment. Working in an environment where prisoners are held can be intimidating for any doctor, as they can receive threats from inmates, in addition to having deplorable working conditions and materials. This without including the part in which salaries are not very stable, because prisons suffer from constant budget cuts, which hinders the ability to hire adequate medical personnel.
This lack of health professionals in prisons is directly reflected in the state of mental health of prisoners and ex-convicts. It is not a coincidence that a very high percentage of the people who are released will be imprisoned again, this is due to the lack of rehabilitation in the prison population. In fact, in many cases studied by various organizations, people have a worse state of mental health when they leave than when they enter, due to the precarious conditions that they must live in prisons. What does this all result in? In people who are reintegrated into the community without having the necessary tools to live a daily life, so it is a matter of time for many to commit crimes again.
Psychological Effects Of Prison Life
There is a phenomenon known as Prisonalization that strangely affects inmates' behaviour. It is the process by which a person unconsciously assumes the code of conduct and values of the prison subculture as a result of being in direct contact with it.
One can differentiate a superficial Prisonalization, which is necessary for a person to adapt (and survive) to the prison environment, and an assimilated one. This happens when the behaviours and ideas acquired exceed the individuality of the inmate. Essentially the inmate becomes the inmate in every sense of the word, every stereotype, assumption and caricature become part of their personality and way of life, and sadly this dark, looming shadow follows well after an inmate's life of incarceration has ended
There are factors that determine the likelihood of imprisonment in individuals are:
● Personality: speaking of maturity, emotional intelligence, intellectual capacity, stability, to name a few.
● Set of external circumstances around the person: frequency of re-entry, length of stay, type of crimes, and family and personal expectations.
● Age and cultural level: understood as personal experiences and knowledge and abilities, respectively. The more experiences, knowledge and skills you have, the easier it is to adapt.
Now, moving on to the psychological effects of the inmates, these are as follows:
The level at which it appears depends on the circumstances in which the incarceration occurs and on the personality of the subject itself. They face the unknown.
Loss of your individuality. The fact that when entering prison, she is assigned a number, that is her person. It also becomes part of a group rejected by society.
Loss of privacy
It arises from forced coexistence with other inmates. They have little or no time to focus on themselves. This is compounded when the environment is violent and your safety is at stake.
It occurs for not meeting one's expectations or defrauding one's image of oneself, and for being incarcerated. However, there are many others whose self-esteem is not negatively affected, as they feel satisfied leading a criminal life.
Lack of control over your own life
It occurs because of a certain inability to make personal, family or social decisions; Yes, there may be a margin of decision, but the range of options is not great. What is most limited is the control of the internal before the evolution of external events. This situation causes frustration.
Lack of expectations
There are few expectations in the life of the inmate beyond his desire for freedom. People are conditioned by a recurring idea: all the time that was lost and the fastest way to get it back.
Changes in sexuality
There can be frustrations from not having the usual sexual routines, dysfunctions can appear and the normal development of a suitable practice can be blocked.
Meet Your Roommate
Primary offender: It is their first time in prison, they maintain prosocial behaviours for which they refuse to adhere to the prison code. Incarceration is a huge shock.
Occasional offender: An individual who has no problems living under the norms of society, but the moment they give themself the opportunity, they commit a crime. They usually try to minimize the act and justify it.
Habitual offender: They consider that illegal activities give them greater satisfaction than legal ones. They are intimately familiar with prison life.
Inmates Are People Too!
It is essential that there is quality intervention by professionals, specifically psychologists, to promote the inmates' social reintegration. The prison environment can affect inmates in numerous ways and it is important that, before they are released, they regain their positive core, rebuild values and reconnect with themselves.
It is not enough to make general proposals to address the issue, we have to have an individualized plan for each inmate since they have different personalities and needs. Although they are criminals, they are still human beings. You'd be surprised at how much difference inmates could make to their communities, countries and ultimately the world, if only given the chance.
This blog post is proudly sponsored by Mindvalley, but all opinions are my own. Mindvalley is the largest online personal growth platform in the world. Choose from hundreds of personal growth programs and transformative content taught by brilliant minds, with results that stick. Mindvalley's mission is to create personal transformation that raises human consciousness. As a Mindvalley affiliate, we may receive compensation, if you purchase products or services through the links provided, at no extra cost to you. This helps support the running of the blog.