The Mental Effects of Being Incarcerated and Labeled as a Criminal

Scholars have been addressing mental health concerns and the justice system for many years. There has been extensive research on how treating mental health conditions prior to incarceration can help reduce inmate populations as well as addressing mental health issues once a person is in jail.

Once a person leaves prison, the mental health issues can worsen. Being a convicted felon can reduce job opportunities, prevent you from renting apartments at many locations, and carries a stigma that can affect the way you interact with others socially.

All of these issues can lead to reoffending and going back to jail. It is a cycle that has been going on for many years but has the potential to be stopped.


States must act aggressively to stop this vicious cycle of imprisonment, release, and reoffending. This can be accomplished in several ways.

Police Training

The police force should be given extensive training on recognizing mental health issues when called to a crime scene. Often, the person should not be taken to jail for the event but to a mental health facility where they can get the proper care.

A person who is acting violently may not be someone with anger issues or on drugs, but in fact, a person with a mental health condition that is not receiving the proper care. Schizophrenia can cause violent outbursts when not treated properly, as well as many other similar disorders. This can prevent incarceration while providing necessary care.

More articles on The Psychology of Crime and Justice:
Does Incarcerating Drug Users Help Addiction?
How Negative Childhood Experiences Affect Crime
The Neurological Underpinnings of Serial Killers
What Goes on in the Mind of School Shooters?

Address Mental Health In Prison

There must be a more aggressive approach to finding and treating mental illness in jail. The Bureau of Justice Statistics shows that over 50 percent of the prison population has mental health concerns.

Jails must implement more aggressive policies to address these health concerns and provide the right treatment for these conditions. Group therapy for inmates might not be the overall solution as many prisons believe. Comprehensive mental health care should be implemented.

Additionally, prisons should prepare inmates for reentering society and the mental health challenges they will face. Knowing what to expect and how to handle these issues can lead to a reduction in reoffending.

Create More Community Service Opportunities

There are some crimes that would be better served with extended community service requirements instead of confinement. A person driving on a suspended driver’s license or a shoplifter may benefit more from contributing to society through community service than serving time in jail.

Lawmakers are encouraged to reevaluate these types of crimes and punishments so that the punishment benefits society instead of just punishing the crime. Providing mental health support while having these offenders contribute to the good of all can go a long way in preventing additional mental health problems and reoffending.