Incarceration can cause emotional harm
People often stereotype those who have been incarcerated as lazy, untrustworthy and disrespectful. They don’t think about the psychological toll that being locked up can have on prisoners.
The effects of incarceration vary, according to Georgia College’s Carrie Cook, an assistant professor of Criminal Justice.
“Ultimately, it depends on the kind of prison they go to and how long they were incarcerated,” Cook said. “It also depends on the type of person they are.”
Those who attend minimum-security federal prisons tend to bounce back emotionally, especially if they are not there very long, Cook said.
On the other hand, super-maximum facilities tend to have more lasting emotional impacts on inmates.
According to Cook, these prisons isolate their inmates from society, sometimes giving them one hour of recreation a day. This leaves the inmates locked in their cells isolated and alone for 23 hours a day. Effects of super maximum facilities include post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and self-harm said Cook.
“The large influence on how an inmate will do in these types of facilities is based on how the inmate is himself,” Cook said.
These types of institutions have more inmates than guards. These inmates essentially live amongst each other and have freedom amongst each other; however, the freedom leads to the formation of subcultures, said Cook.
According to Cook, these subcultures highly affect life in prison. Within these subcultures, inmates are taught to be tough, not show emotion, fight anyone who is disrespectful and ignore authority. Any sign of weakness is exploited, and some inmates within this subculture are mentally and physically dangerous.
This way of thinking along with their daily routine in prison affects their lives when they are released said Cook. While incarcerated, inmates are told what to do and when to do it. According to Cook, when they are released, they are thrown into a world in which they have to make their own choices and are not prepared to deal with the new liberties they have.
This causes former convicts to project the social and psychological reactions with the subcultures they encountered in prison which can cause problems in their personal relationships and with future employers said Cook.
It is widely known that people who have been incarcerated are less likely to get jobs.
“Sixty percent of employers would not hire someone who has been incarcerated,” Cook said, “because they see faults in integrity and there is a lack of trust.”
Some employers will ask for the reason of incarceration while others will simply dismiss the candidate solely on the fact that they have been to prison.
“Employers should certainly ask about the charges in order to get a better understanding of the character of the potential employee and its impact on how the person might perform the job; however, it shouldn’t be required by law,” senior marketing major Paul Rossetti said. “Ultimately, if an employer feels that a person with a criminal record at all, regardless of the charges, will not be a good fit for the company then that is the right of the employer to decide.”
According to Cook, former convicts who are lucky enough to get an interview are usually unprepared on how to represent themselves in the best light.
Former convicts lack the resources available to buy suitable clothing in order to represent themselves in a better light, and the knowledge of how to appropriately respond to the interviewer’s questions said Cook.
Having worked at Riverstate Prison in Milledgeville for three years, Cook attests that society’s focus is not where it should be. Society focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation, and what it needs to do is help those who are incarcerated prepare for life after jail rather than hinder that progress.
“In my experience, there aren’t a lot of rehabilitation services available in prisons,” Darcy Shores, forensic psychologist at Central State Hospital said. “Some have GED training, but those are superficial at best. They give you the book and say, ‘Study the book and then there’s a test.’ Clearly, we’re not focused on trying to help people change their lives.”