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How Being in Prison Affects Mental Health

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The aim of this research project was to determine if being in prison confinements and if the events that occur in prison negatively affect a prisoner’s mental health. This research project includes information gathered from an email interview with a psychologist that has worked in a prison environment. They were given a questionnaire with seven open-ended questions and were able to fill out every question. All of the questions related directly to the mental health of prisoners. The results of this research project were similar to what they were predicted to be. Many prisoners do seem to develop a pronounced mental health issue, while in prison. However, many others already have a pronounced mental health issue when they enter. The prison environment created more pronounced psychiatric conditions in the prisoners and caused many prisoners to feel like they were going insane.

Table of contents


Literature Review

Thesis Statement and Rationale

The Study





Personal Reflection

Further Study



Informed Consent Form




Literature Review

An article on a website called Good Therapy states that more than half of prisoners are diagnosed with a mental health issue. This website also proceeds to state the following. Prisoners that experience hallucinations or psychosis often get medication to control the symptoms. However, prisoners with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder often go untreated. Many prisoners are sexually abused, assaulted and get into fights, which can cause trauma and create mental health issues in prisoners who had no previous history of mental health issues. In many prisons access to family and friends is limited, which makes the prisoners feel isolated and often leads them to social anxiety, depression and insanity.

An article on the website thebmj stated that prisoners reported that long periods of isolation with little mental motivation contributed to poor mental health and made them feel angry and frustrated. Prisoners often misused drugs in order to pass time. The prisoners often directed their frustration onto the staff who would direct their stress onto their prisoners. The prisoners stated that increasing the amount of time they got for exercising, education and various other activities such as reading and watching TV would decrease their frustration and anger. Many prisoners stated that they felt like banging their head on the wall and they felt like they were going crazy. They also said that the frustration and anger keeps on building up, but they have to hold it down.

A book called “Psychology in Prisons” contains information similar to the above whereas prisoners do not get a lot of time with their family and friends. However, the prisoners often need their family and friends to confide in. Many prisoners also have children that they do not get to see or talk to. All of this creates frustration in the prisoner and it also causes separation anxiety. The book also includes that prisoners lose control of everything and cannot choose when to do basic human functions such as eating, sleeping and going to the bathroom. The prisoners often feel humiliated and frightened as losing control of their life comes as a shock to them.

Thesis Statement and Rationale

I chose to study the mental health of prisoners, because it is a topic that I often wonder about. I wanted to find out if the prison system was not actually helping and if it needed to be changed in order to prevent prisoners from developing a mental health issue. While being in prison many prisoners face traumatic experiences that cause them to be mentally affected for the rest of their lives. Many of these prisoners enter prison without a significant psychiatric condition, but leave with a pronounced mental health issue such as depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. It is important for the prisoners to have a healthy mind, because some of them will be released from prison and will need to integrate into society. However, having a psychiatric condition often prevents them from effectively being able to do so and it often causes prisoners to end up in prison all over again.

The Study:


In order to get the answers needed, a series of questions had to be given to a psychologist that has or is still working in a prison environment. The psychologist was first contacted by email asking if they would be able to answer some questions. When they replied and said that they agreed to do so, a consent form was sent to them. After the consent form was signed, a questionnaire consisting of seven questions was also sent to them. All of the seven questions on the questionnaire were open-ended and related entirely to the mental health of prisoners. Open-ended questions were asked, as the answers would provide more details about the topic and an explanation for the answer could be given. Open-ended questions also allow people to tell you things that you may not have looked at before or that you may not have realized. The questionnaire was given to a psychologist who has worked or is working in a prison environment, because they know the most about a prisoners mind state as they have worked or work directly with them. They have also been able to study a prisoner’s mental health and would be capable of giving information about what they have learnt by being in that environment. After all of the questions had been asked and answered, the psychologist had been asked if they would like the results. However, the psychologist had stated that it would not be necessary.


After reviewing the answers that the psychologist gave, there were many things that were revealed that probably would not have been, if it were not



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