Challenges facing prisoners on release


If there is one thing i know about is the challenges a prisoner faces on release, having being liberated both from short and long term sentences i know only to well the multitude of emotions felt when your day of release finally comes around and the uphill struggle to ‘fit in’ in the oncoming weeks and months.

Depending on the length of sentence you are completing your state of mind will differ, if it is only a matter of months you have been away, well not a lot may have changed but you will still have the label of ex-con, you may have lost your home and job and need to start re-building the life you once had.

If it is a long-term sentence you are finishing then it is a whole different ball game and your whole mindset has to change due to the conditioning to prison rules and prison culture you have been indoctrinated in over how many years you have been locked up. The  psychological effects can be quite profound and damaging and may take years to repair if they ever do.


Living in a hostile environment such as prison means that ‘offenders’ must learn to conform to the rules of both the prison itself, and the other inmates. A result of this is that offenders may experience both anxiety and changes in their personality as well as changes in their judgment making skills. If someone is serving a long term sentence then inevitably they will witness as they will be unable to avoid traumatizing events. These events can and will leave them psychologically damaged and change the way they view other human beings.

From a personal perspective the first time you see somebody slashed you are horrified, second time mildly concerned, come the third time you couldn’t care less, really sad but true, prison dehumanises you.

The situations that present themselves in a  stressful environment like prison, make it logical that inmates will be found to suffer from many negative psychological effects. Aside from their loss of humanity, research has revealed that these former inmates have experienced feelings of depression, thoughts of suicide, hypervigilance, and distrust.  Being in a hostile environment for a long period, can leave inmates with paranoia that can  continue to haunt them long after they have left the confines of the prison indeed its a life long battle for some. These feelings have been likened to symptoms of PTSD, which can also be found in veterans of war.

On leaving prison overwhelming feelings of confusion and frustration are normal and common and can cause the former inmate to further distance themselves from society. The prison structure is no longer present and because they were not exposed to anything outside of this structure, they leave totally unprepared for the changes that have occurred in the world and the challenges that they will undoubtedly face upon their release.


For prisoners serving long term sentences, the thought of seeing a world outside of a prison cell can be both exciting and daunting. The life they lived in the strictly structured world of prison may sometimes feel to them like a bad dream that you cannot wake from. The fast paced world they will face when they finally leave their nightmare is often times more frightening than anything they have ever had to deal with.

Prisoners finishing long term sentences must learn to change the way they socialize with others and the way they make decisions to survive. The skills learned in prison are not acceptable when they re-enter society. They must re-learn how to behave and even how to talk.  For lots of prisoners on release, the problem is not that they have forgotten their social skills; it is that they were never able to use them before and so they never learned how.

The prison system affects  inmates in such a negative way psychologically; that the ability to function in everyday society and their way of thinking, feeling, and expressing themselves are affected on release. The prison system and the control it exercised over them when they were imprisoned continues to be present in their mind even after they are given the freedom to make their own decisions. With all the challenges faced upon release, former inmates become overwhelmed and their inability to re-integrate into society leads them to reoffend. From a personal point of view rehabilitation programs are a solution to the problem of reoffending as well as to help the prisoners with psychological problems they may have endured before or during their prison stay.


Inmates that develop psychological problems in prison are a great risk to both society and themselves. Their frustration with being unable to connect to those outside of prison or with the psychological effects that their incarceration caused leads them to become isolated, depressed and even suicidal.

Rehabilitation programs work and this has been proved via the ‘Barlinnie special unit’ and the prison system implemented in Norway.

The sheer numbers of people imprisoned both in the UK and America make rehabilitation programs a mote point and the problem lies with our courts and the phenomenon of prisons for profit, that though is another story.

Ultimately prisons do more damage to individuals who before entering prison may have been non-violent as well as not criminally minded, our corrupt court systems need addressed and rehabilitation made available to men and women damaged by a system from an early age.

Does prison work?

Barlinnie special unit


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