Due to the pandemic, many of us have obtained a personal understanding of what living a solitary life means.
We, as a society, have been forced to recognize how much both our mental and physical health are dependent on interacting with those around us. Things we once took for granted, such as a walk to the park with friends or giving a grandparent a hug, are much more precious.
However, what we have experienced in the pandemic is just a small taste of what some individuals living in correctional institutions have to cope with on a much larger scale.
Reentry After Solitary Confinement
Most individuals, when released from incarceration, express that the transition back into society can come with significant challenges. These challenges include finding housing, employment, and living in a less structured environment than prison. For those who have also served a portion of their time in solitary confinement, there are even more compounded challenges added to the reentry process.
Two ways living in solitary confinement can directly impact reentry ability are its negative effect on mental health as well as the deterioration of social skills due to lack of normal everyday interactions. Justice involved individuals who have lived in isolation can find everyday activities that they were not subjected to for years extremely difficult to manage.
There are several documented psychological issues that can occur as a direct result of a person living in total isolation including:
- Depression or suicidal behavior
- Memory deficits
- Impulse control
- Concentration issues
- Hypersensitivity to external stimuli
- Coping with helplessness by obsessively trying to control minor things
- Lashing out to gain attention or as a cry for help
- Rapid fluctuation in weight
Here are also some ways that social skills can deteriorate in isolation:
- When a person goes extended periods (months/years) without direct contact or conversation they will undoubtedly forget how to interact with other people appropriately
- When released from isolation some individuals in turn self-isolate in an attempt to cope or lash out because of the inability to be properly understood
What are Prisoner Isolation Cells like?
Inmates are housed in a small cell ranging from 6 feet by 9 feet or 8 feet by 10 feet. Food is presented through a small door slot in a room that includes a bed, sink, toilet, and usually no windows. Inmates remain in isolation for 23 hours a day with a single hour of exercise outside.
Why is the Goal of Reentry Important?
Rehabilitation programs, like NLK9's, focus on providing justice involved individuals with opportunities to develop skills that will help them with future employment and a change in mindset. Incarceration deeply impacts justice involved individual’s surrounding social networks, especially an individual’s family members.
An article titled The Benefits of Rehabilitative Incarceration discusses research conducted in Norway’s criminal justice system focusing on rehabilitation. It serves as proof of concept that time spent in prison, with a focus on rehabilitation, can result in positive outcomes.
While spending time in prison serves a clear purpose, to punish as well as deter individuals from recidivism, it also comes with social stigma and exposure to other individuals who have committed crimes. This is one of the many reasons rehabilitation focused programs are so important to positive outcomes after release.
New Life K9s has experienced firsthand the powerful impact rehabilitative programs can have on justice involved individuals’ futures and general wellbeing.
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Bennett, K. (2019, June 29). What really happens inside prisoner isolation cells? Psychology Today. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-minds/201806/what-really-happens-inside-prisoner-isolation-cells
Dahl , G., & Mogstad, M. (2020, March 1). The benefits of rehabilitative incarceration. NBER: National Bureau of Economic Research . Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.nber.org/reporter/2020number1/benefits-rehabilitative-incarceration
H, C. (2021, March 15). Reentry after solitary confinement. PROBATION INFORMATION NETWORK. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.probationinfo.org/reentry-after-solitary-confinement/
Solitary Confinement. NAMI. (n.d.). Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.nami.org/Advocacy/Policy-Priorities/Stopping-Harmful-Practices/Solitary-Confinement
Wild, T. (2014, July 11). Segregation in our jails. Langley House. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from https://www.langleyhousetrust.org/blog/segregation-in-our-jails/