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Study on the Mental and Emotional Cost of Incarceration

DOI: 10.4236/ojmp.2020.92004, PP. 41-49

Keywords: Prison-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, Allostasis, Evi-dence-Based Research, Mental and Emotional Cost of Incarceration

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Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a psychiatric disorder that is the result of personal experiences directly involved with or witnessing traumatic or life-threating events. PTSD has profound psychobiological correlates, which can impair the person’s daily life and be life-threatening. The disorder is typically associated with military com-bat, acts of terrorism, sexual assault, bullying, exposure to abusive and toxic environments. The culture of prison encompasses and is the direct catalyst for consistent exposure to each of these elements. Considering that the United States leads the free world in the rate of incarceration, Prison-related PTSD is a serious public health and social issue. A sharp rise in ex-offenders that meet 3 or more of the criteria for diagnosing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from the Fifth Edition of the Diag-nostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is alarming. We review the numbers and introduce a new perspective on how the Department of Corrections and Department of Justice can play a vital role by working to correct this problem. We discuss the need to provide long-term care for this underserved population, particularly those convicted of non-violent crimes. We present arguments in support of the notion there should be professional clinical resources available for individuals released from prison to help manage the symptoms of PTSD that were created primarily through incarceration.


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