Psychology Essay Example: Prison Overcrowding

Published: 2022-10-24
Psychology Essay Example: Prison Overcrowding
Type of paper:  Essay
Categories:  Psychology Penal system Post traumatic stress disorder
Pages: 5
Wordcount: 1287 words
11 min read

Prison overcrowding is one of the distressing issues that characterize the poor prison condition around the world today. However, many international standard regulations, such as the UN Convention against torture and the Revised UN Standards Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners (Nelson Mandela Rules), have been enacted to promote the well-being of the prisoners. In addition, there are other regulatory standards that supplement the Nelson Mandela Rules; they include Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders ('the Bangkok Rules') and UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners. Although the international organization has tried all they could to maintain sanity in the prisons around the world, still the overuse of solitary confinement in prisons has remained to be an increasing concern (Penal Reform International n.p). The US is one of the countries with the highest number of prisoners, 2.2 million people. In addition, it is also the country with the highest prison rate in the world, of about 724 people per 100,000. In the US, there are more prisoners than colleges. One of the factors that are cited to have contributed to the growing number of the prison inmates in the US is the when the mandatory minimum sentence laws on drugs went into effect, the population became more than quadrupled since the 1980s (Berman and Aliyah 13). The prison overpopulation is the thing of concern among many of the psychologists who are alarmed of the possible psychological effects that may result on the quality of the confinement.

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Prison overcrowding is the key issue that leads to the poor prison condition around the world, especially in the United States. Arguably, prison overcrowding is the biggest isolated problems that face the prison system in today's society, and it is cited that if it escalates, its effects could be life-threatening. There are a number of the causes for prison overcrowding. Kupers shows that one factor is that when some inmates are released, they are found with other crimes in short time and become incarcerated again (190). Offenders may also be sent back to confinement when it is realized that they did not oblige to the community services, and last and not least is that there are tougher sentences that prolong the prisoners stay in the incarceration. According to the 2016 statistics, a number of the prisoners overwhelms the required capacity in more than 115 countries, whereas, more than 51 countries have a problem of extreme overcrowding (Astin, Kathy and David 17).

Out of experience, it has been identified that the inmates in the overcrowding prisons undergo a lot of stress as well as racial tension, which can escalate to instances whereby the inmate assault one another (Lichten, 2015). Also, the extent of privacy is considered to be an imperative aspect to gauge overcrowding. In addition, offering inmates with an open dormitory with private cubicles could eradicate the negative impacts associated with the open dormitories. It is arguably stated that it is risky that the psychological effects, particularly mental decompensating, of overcrowding lead to higher rate of homicidal behavior as well as inmate suicidal (Paulus and McCain 53).

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is associated with various forms of suicidal behaviors, such as past attempts, suicidal ideation (SI) and actual death as the result of the suicide. The recent and concrete empirical support has identified research that relates the PTSD and suicidal ideation. Dual recent meta-analytic research validated a positive relationship between PTSD with both the previous and the present SI across age, gender as well as the type of trauma (Astin, Kathy and David 17).

The study conducted by the two psychiatrists Paulus and McCain (1983) resurfaced an evidence to prove that for increased suicides, disciplinary infractions, psychiatric commitments, violent deaths and deaths as the result of the natural cause in the crowded prions. Some of the inmates, before incarceration, they tend to suffer from severe and recurring traumas while they were at a tender age and young adults. Such people are prone than others to stress response syndrome s, suicide, mental decompensation, and other types of psychiatric morbidity when they ate imprisoned. On the other hand, men who have been previously traumatized and experienced any significant degree of psychiatric morbidity are more susceptible to new traumas; and while with the traumas, their condition inclines to worsen. Study proves that crowd, as well as harsh prison conditions, are more likely to aggravate psychiatric disorders (Kupers, 1996).

Studies in both the prisons and dormitories have identified that inmates do not adapt to crowding over time; and actually, it may respond more damaging or be less tolerant with increased exposure (Roth, (2018). Traumatising and stressful events that are either experienced or witnessed by the inmates while imprisoned, accompanied by the congested living quarters, has been connected to worsened symptoms of PTSD and suicidal ideation. Previous traumatic experiences before the prison confinement including, physical and sexual abuse are two factors that predispose inmates to a higher risk of suicide (Paulus 17). According to Berman and Aliyah, the reported cases of prison suicide were three times higher to that of the general population (32). Violence together with the aggression experienced while in the confinement, can trigger the feelings of powerlessness as well as increased suicidal behavior. Whereas, lack of sufficient coping skills, plus the feeling of victimization, convicts may perceive suicide as their only way to escape their devastating trouble (Engdahl et al. 1580).

Post-traumatic Stress Disorder is notified to be linked to the suicide attempts together with the acts of aggression, comprising homicide. However, diagnosed psychiatric conditions like adjustment disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, somatization disorder, panic disorder, social phobia as well as generalized anxiety can lead to significant morbidity; they are not perceived "major mental illnesses" in the prison environment or given mental health treatment priority. For instance, stress response syndrome, either atypical stress response syndromes or the full-blown variety that satisfies DSM-IV criteria for a diagnosis of PTSD alongside the ones that entail some but not all of the vital symptoms is an example of a disorder possibly to be categorized under undertreated and identified in prisons. Under the prevalence rate report for PTSD among imprisoned felons is not significantly higher as compared o the rate for the general population (Berman, Gavin, and Aliyah 18). But, Paulus has identified that this applies due to the diagnosis requires identification of four out of nine main symptoms of PTSD (22).

To wind up, it is the obligation of the of the states o ensure that the welfare of the prisoners is meet while on confinement. Furthermore, the state has the responsibility to ensure that there is the restriction of the ill-treatment among the prisoners and the right to good health is guaranteed. Issues such as poor sanitary condition, poor ventilation, inadequate lighting, insects and pests, extreme temperatures, together with insufficient or complete lack of personal hygiene supplement are some of the issues that accompany and characterize over-crowding in the prison confinements, and consequently leading to poor health and psychological impact to the inmates.

Works Cited

Astin, Millie C., Kathy J. Lawrence, and David W. Foy. "Posttraumatic stress disorder among battered women: Risk and resiliency factors." Violence and victims 8.1 (1993): 17.

Berman, Gavin, and Aliyah Dar. "Prison population statistics." London: House of Commons Library (2013).

Engdahl, Brian, et al. "Posttraumatic stress disorder in a community group of former prisoners of war: a normative response to severe trauma." American journal of psychiatry154.11 (1997): 1576-1581.

Kupers, Terry A. "Trauma and its sequelae in male prisoners: Effects of confinement, overcrowding, and diminished services." American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 66.2 (1996): 189-196.

Paulus, Paul. Prisons crowding: A psychological perspective. Springer Science & Business Media, 2012.

Penal Reform International. "Prison Conditions: Key Facts - Penal Reform International". Penal Reform International, 2018, Accessed 28 Nov 2018.

Prison Reform Trust, November. "Bromley briefings prison factfile." (2012).

Roth, A. (2018). Insane: America's criminal treatment of mental illness.

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