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From the Outside Looking In

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Antionette Carter

UNV 104

July 30, 2017

Megan Castles

From the Outside Looking In

When people think of prison they underestimate the truth within the walls. People do not know the full effect of the system unless they have lived through it first-hand. Being incarcerated can have different effects on people depending on many different factors. Sometimes it all depends on the person they are. Some people are just not strong enough to withstand the effects of prison. Another factor could be the circumstances which led to the incarceration. Also, it all depends on what types of opportunities there are for the inmate to take advantage of while they are on the inside. Last, but not least, the circumstances they deal with while on the inside is a huge factor. All these things have different effects on how they will integrate back into society when their time comes. Prison is a place that will leave a person with many different feelings such as being institutionalized and defensive, but there are ways to get something positive out of this negative setting.

One major effect being in prison has on someone is it leaves them institutionalized even once they are released. When a person goes into any institution they are forced to leave the life the once lived behind. In doing so, they must learn to take on almost an entirely different self. Everything they did on a day to day basis changes. How much they change depends on the duration of their stay in this new environment. Nevertheless, the change is inevitable. Becoming institutionalized affects women worse than men unfortunately. Studies suggest that it is harder for a woman to readjust to life on the outside after doing prison time (Cobbina J, Bender K. 2012). Since they are the ones who keep things in order, so to speak, and they get used to not having these responsibilities they must start completely from square one. On the contrary, men have a home to go to as long as they have a woman (Cobbina J, Bender K. 2012). This proves that although reentry can be difficult for all ex-offenders, it can be much harder for the woman. However, the inmate, whether male or female, cannot allow their true selves to be lost forever once they do become institutionalized.

Another effect prison has on an inmate inside and once they are released is that it forces them to build a strong defense which can harm them when they reenter society. According to “History From the Inside Out,” the conditions on the inside can be very harsh. Inmates are forced to deal with very close living quarters where there may be 4-16 inmates sleeping in one area (Goldsmith, L 1997). When dealing with something this extreme it forces a person to keep their guard up. In some sense, this can help them when dealing with circumstances on the inside. However, it can be very harmful once they return to society because they may be viewed as angry or even dangerous especially when people know that they are an ex-offender. On the inside prisoners also have to deal with the prison guards who engage in the same criminal activity as they do and who have the ability to be just as corrupt (Goldsmith, L 1997). Therefore, they are left with no one to trust. This information is important because it gives readers insight on why ex-offenders return to society with a sort of “chip on their shoulder.” The circumstances inside may have scarred them in ways people on the outside will never understand.

One positive effect of prison is being able to use the negative action and flip it into something positive that will be beneficial for the inmate once they are released. Although there are many negative effects of prison, there are many people who have the capability to turn the negative into something positive which in turn will help them live a better life thereafter. In “The rebuilding of a Life after Jail time for fraud,” the two characters both turned their lives from negative to positive within their transition from jail to society (Lam, J; James, K; Leung, J.K.S 2012).  Depending on the inmates will power and willfulness to do something different while serving time, the outcome of doing a prison sentence could turn out to be helpful. One of these men was determined to recreate his life while in prison by studying MBA after tax fraud led him there and the other flipped his gambling problem into a great thing which led him to opening two casinos upon his release (Lam, J et al 2012). These two stories alone prove that prison is not all negative if the person is able to turn things around and change the negative thinking into something positive.  



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