According to the American Psychological Association, 64% of incarcerated individuals in
jail, 54% of incarcerated individuals in state prison, and 45% of incarcerated individuals in
federal prison report mental health concerns. These concerns do not end when a person is released. Incarceration can take a toll on one’s mental health long after their sentence ends.
The reentry process is more complex than simply walking out the doors of a correctional facility and returning back home like normal. Returning citizens are being pushed back into society and expected to live productively after many of their meaningful relationships have been strained, the possibility of jobs lost, and living situations have changed. Some people don't have a reliable support system to return home to, which can leave them to address their untreated mental health concerns alone.
Carceral environments can be highly damaging to a person's mental health over time. Removing people from society and eliminating meaning and purpose from their lives can cause shock to the mind and body. Being forced into a confined area surrounded by concrete walls, very little exposure to natural light from outdoors, lack of stimulation, and feeling secluded from society can cause irreversible trauma. Many experience depressive disorders,
anxiety disorders, PTSD and more after experiencing incarceration. Some people may suffer from Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS), a set of symptoms that are often rooted in institutional abuse.
Mental health is important because the mind controls the way we function in our everyday lives. During the transition for recently released individuals, these mental health issues can
continue to affect them by making them feel stigmatized, helpless, and unstable. Symptoms of untreated mental health conditions can disrupt family relationships and even hinder a parent's ability to take adequate care of their children. Unchecked mental health issues can also limit a person's chances at obtaining gainful employment after incarceration, in a system where their background already creates barriers.
Despite being mentally and emotionally triggered by the criminal justice system itself, this same system expects people to return home with untreated mental health issues and live productively while suppressing the impact of their traumatic prison experiences. This expectation can be viewed as unfair, which emphasizes the need for reentry programs like Paroled2Pride. By connecting formerly incarcerated people with the mental health resources that they need, we are empowering them to create stability in all aspects of their lives.