What Is Post Incarceration Syndrome?

Last Updated on May 11, 2022 by Fair Punishment Team

People can experience some truly disturbing things in prison. This experience can cause long-lasting damage to a person’s mental state.

It can be difficult for people who have not been imprisoned to fully understand the effect that this can have on someone. 

If you have left prison relatively recently, you may be suffering from post-incarceration syndrome. To find out more information on this syndrome and how a person can recover from it, please continue reading. 

What is Post-Incarceration Syndrome?

This is a mental disorder experienced by someone who is either currently in prison or by someone who has left imprisonment not long ago.

While anyone who has been in prison can suffer from this mental disorder, it is particularly prevalent in those who dealt with trauma during their imprisonment. 

If you were kept in solitary confinement for a long period of time, you will be more likely to be afflicted with post-incarceration syndrome.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, solitary confinement is a state of imprisonment in which a person is not allowed to have contact with anyone else. Solitary confinement is used for inmates who have been troublesome. 

Furthermore, post-incarceration syndrome may be especially felt by those who have suffered from institutional abuse.

For example, if a prisoner worker has assaulted a prisoner, this would be considered institutional abuse. The trauma from these events will cause them to suffer from post-incarceration syndrome. 

What Traits Do People with Post-Incarceration Syndrome Suffer From?

There are several symptoms that inmates with this mental disorder will suffer from. These symptoms and side effects may include:

  • PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) – this disorder is common among people who have experienced trauma. This could also be linked to the crime for which the person was imprisoned. This disorder will cause a person to relive a traumatic event via flashbacks and nightmares. There are many symptoms of this disorder, namely insomnia. 
  • ASPT (antisocial personality traits) – when in prison, social opportunities are limited. This will be particularly true if the inmate has spent time in solitary confinement. Often, socializing in prison will be limited to guards, other prisoners, and the occasional visitor. The experience can result in prisoners becoming antisocial. 
  • Institutionalized personality traits – this will result in a prisoner losing a sense of their own nature and personality. A person may instead begin to develop alternate personality traits that have grown during their time in prison. As a consequence, the sufferer may be less recognizable in terms of personality. 
  • Sensory deprivation – this is the weakening or removal of your senses. Living in an isolated space without contact with the outside world can make a person suffer from sensory deprivation. 
  • An inmate may suffer from anxiety, rage, isolation, and depression. 

How Can You Treat Post-Incarceration Syndrome?

Though post-incarceration syndrome is a very serious disorder, it can be treated. This treatment should come from a professional, namely a therapist.

Therapists will be able to help an inmate overcome this syndrome by providing expert and individualized advice. Therapists can help to rehabilitate these individuals. 

It can be very difficult for recently released prison inmates to seek help. This is because there is not much of a system in place for these people.

Furthermore, a lot of these inmates may not have friends or family who can support them through these hard times. 

Moreover, a lot of people who suffer from mental disorders may try to pretend that these illnesses do not exist. However, it is very important to treat mental illness as a bodily illness. As you would visit a doctor with bodily illness, you should consult a therapist when you have a mental illness. 

If you or someone you know may be suffering from post-incarceration syndrome, it is essential not to self-medicate.

To avoid their pain, some inmates may turn to drugs. This is rarely the answer. Instead, it can lead to further crime. In addition, you may simply be avoiding the mental disorder instead of actually facing it. 

Can Post-Incarceration Syndrome be Stopped?

Unless there is a change in how prisons are run, post-incarceration syndrome is unlikely to be prevented. When someone leaves prison, there should be a structure in place to help them adjust and adapt to the outside world.

Otherwise, they are likely to spiral into post-incarceration syndrome. 

Sadly, programs do not exist in most places. This is why post-incarceration syndrome is still a very real and serious disorder.

Changes in how prisoners are treated and supported can take years to change. Post-incarceration would also require increased awareness in order to drive these changes. 

Is There a Link Between Post-Incarceration Syndrome and Substance Abuse? 

Yes, there is an unfortunate link between newly released inmates and substance abuse. People who are looking to overcome their trauma may use illegal substances as a coping mechanism.

Of course, this is not the best way of dealing with post-incarceration syndrome. However, can you really blame these inmates when there is nothing in place to stop them from turning to substance abuse?

Frequently Asked Questions

What psychological impact does incarceration have?

Prison can have a negative and long-lasting effect on a person’s mental state. Among the many psychological effects of a stretch in prison include:

  • Depression
  • Panic
  • Paranoia
  • Insomnia
  • Loneliness
  • Hostility
  • Powerlessness
  • Social withdrawal 

Because of this, it is a good idea to rehabilitate prisoners and to get them ready for the world they will experience when they are released. Otherwise, these symptoms can translate to post-incarceration syndrome. 

Can incarceration lead to PTSD?

Yes, research has shown that a high volume of inmates suffers from PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder).

Not only will the prison inmates likely suffer from this disorder, but the prison workers tend to also experience it. Most prisoners will experience PTSD through harsh reminders of a traumatic event. 

Final Thoughts

If you or someone you know is suffering from post-incarceration syndrome, it is crucial that you get them helped as soon as possible. This should be in the form of taking them to therapy. Otherwise, their feelings of anxiety and loneliness may get worse.