The Psychological Torture We're Imparting On Prisoners Is Only Making The Country More Dangerous

The Psychological Torture We're Imparting On Prisoners Is Only Making The Country More Dangerous

The lie we've been sold to feel better about torturing people to death is crumbling right before us.

Prison is the closest institution I can think of that exemplifies the term "necessary evil." Few people would argue for the complete abolition of prisons. They serve a need that our society, and every society, has had since the beginning of time. But there has got to be a better way to do it than what we're doing now.

What we're doing now can be summarized in one heartbreaking sentence: the U.S. prison system is harvesting a group of mentally ill individuals solely prepared to reenter the system somewhere down the line.

The current framework for prisons in the United States relies on psyche-breaking strategies that inevitably cause long-term psychological damage, not only ruining the life of the imprisoned individual but also ruining the chance of that individual’s successful reentry into life beyond prison walls.

Often times, when I start this conversation with those around me, they say something along the lines of, "Who cares? They're just prisoners," or, "If you don't want to be there, don't break the law." This sentiment that prison shouldn't be a nice place and its frightening environment is a deterrent for crime is messed up in a lot of ways - but the one of greatest interest to people who believe this might be that the current state of prisons is not successful at reducing crime.

Success within the legal system can be defined by the rates of recidivism within it—the rates at which former prisoners relapse into criminal behavior. In the United States in 2005, 76.7 percent of released prisoners were rearrested within five years of their release.

Does that sound like success?

Maybe this is what it's about. Maybe even if you don't care about the treatment of inmates behind prison walls, you care whether or not that treatment is doing what we've been conditioned to believe is the goal: keeping our country safe.

Because of the evidence that psychologically traumatic conditions lead to negative behavior, it's not a jump to say that the psychological effects of living inside a United States prison, including development/exacerbation of mental illness, contribute to the increasingly high rates of recidivism inside the U.S. legal system.

Statisticians from the Bureau of Justice (BJS) led a study in 2004 on inmates in state and federal correctional facilities. The results revealed that 56 percent of prisoners had a mental health problem based on criteria specified in the DSM-IV. These numbers are even more concerning when compared to the average prevalence of mental illness in the general United States population—18.2 percent. This research points to the idea that mental illness is not only something that leads to imprisonment but something that comes as a result of imprisonment.

A final sentiment on the fatality of mental illness inside prisons is the fact that in 2011, suicides accounted for 5.5 percent of deaths in United States prisons—that year, the BJS reported that 185 inmates took their own lives. This research clearly points to the fact that the United States prison system is not doing an efficient job at preventing, identifying or treating mental illness, and the consequences are fatal.

While these statistics are clearly ethically disturbing, a greater truth remains: not only is the prison system harvesting mental illness and the unethical treatment of individuals, but it is also perpetuating an ineffective system for reducing crime rates. This is best illustrated by the rates of recidivism in this country. In the United States, the average recidivism rate for released prisoners is 43.3 percent. However, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, about 68 percent of 405,000 prisoners released in 2005 were rearrested for a new crime within three years of their release, and 77 percent were rearrested within five years.

We're human. We make mistakes. Yeah, some people make really, really big ones. And some of us are luckier than others. But I can't—and I wonder if you can—defend a system that unfairly penalizes people who have made the same mistakes I have to the point of being driven to death.

I believe a system that is both ethically and pragmatically sound is a possibility when the focus moves from punishment to rehabilitation.

In my mind, this looks like an end to solitary confinement and mandatory minimums, less severe sentencing for lower-level drug offenses, treatment for addiction as opposed to imprisonment in cases of drug offenses, and greater concern for the rehabilitation of inmates as opposed to their punishment, specifically aimed at greater psychological care.

With new information concerning the disturbing psychological effects of the nation’s prisons and the inefficiency—legally, financially, and morally—of the system, it is irresponsible to overlook what is happening inside prisons and inside prisoners. If United States’ prisons continue to source and pursue psychological effects in its inmates, including severe mental illness, the 68 percent recidivism rate will continue—and possibly increase.

Does that sound like success to anyone?

Cover Image Credit: YouTube

Popular Right Now

'As A Woman,' I Don't Need To Fit Your Preconceived Political Assumptions About Women

I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.


It is quite possible to say that the United States has never seen such a time of divisiveness, partisanship, and extreme animosity of those on different sides of the political spectrum. Social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are saturated with posts of political opinions and are matched with comments that express not only disagreement but too often, words of hatred. Many who cannot understand others' political beliefs rarely even respect them.

As a female, Republican, college student, I feel I receive the most confusion from others regarding my political opinions. Whenever I post or write something supporting a conservative or expressing my right-leaning beliefs and I see a comment has been left, I almost always know what words their comment will begin with. Or in conversation, if I make my beliefs known and someone begins to respond, I can practically hear the words before they leave their mouth.

"As a woman…"

This initial phrase is often followed by a question, generally surrounding how I could publicly support a Republican candidate or maintain conservative beliefs. "As a woman, how can you support Donald Trump?" or "As a woman, how can you support pro-life policies?" and, my personal favorite, "As a woman, how did you not want Hillary for president?"

Although I understand their sentiment, I cannot respect it. Yes, being a woman is a part of who I am, but it in no way determines who I am. My sex has not and will not adjudicate my goals, my passions, or my work. It will not influence the way in which I think or the way in which I express those thoughts. Further, your mention of my sex as the primary logic for condemning such expressions will not change my adherence to defending what I share. Nor should it.

To conduct your questioning of my politics by inferring that my sex should influence my ideology is not only offensive, it's sexist.

It disregards my other qualifications and renders them worthless. It disregards my work as a student of political science. It disregards my hours of research dedicated to writing about politics. It disregards my creativity as an author and my knowledge of the subjects I choose to discuss. It disregards the fundamental human right I possess to form my own opinion and my Constitutional right to express that opinion freely with others. And most notably, it disregards that I am an individual. An individual capable of forming my own opinions and being brave enough to share those with the world at the risk of receiving backlash and criticism. All I ask is for respect of that bravery and respect for my qualifications.

Words are powerful. They can be used to inspire, unite, and revolutionize. Yet, they can be abused, and too comfortably are. Opening a dialogue of political debate by confining me to my gender restricts the productivity of that debate from the start. Those simple but potent words overlook my identity and label me as a stereotype destined to fit into a mold. They indicate that in our debate, you cannot look past my sex. That you will not be receptive to what I have to say if it doesn't fit into what I should be saying, "as a woman."

That is the issue with politics today. The media and our politicians, those who are meant to encourage and protect democracy, divide us into these stereotypes. We are too often told that because we are female, because we are young adults, because we are a minority, because we are middle-aged males without college degrees, that we are meant to vote and to feel one way, and any other way is misguided. Before a conversation has begun, we are divided against our will. Too many of us fail to inform ourselves of the issues and construct opinions that are entirely our own, unencumbered by what the mainstream tells us we are meant to believe.

We, as a people, have become limited to these classifications. Are we not more than a demographic?

As a student of political science, seeking to enter a workforce dominated by men, yes, I am a woman, but foremost I am a scholar, I am a leader, and I am autonomous. I refuse to be categorized and I refuse to be defined by others. Yes, I am a woman, but I am so much more.

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Educate Yourself And Spread Facts, Not Bias

Do you know the truth? Or are you allowing rumors to cloud your judgement of the political arena?


In our society, the government has grown to be a capitalistic effort. Payout, backroom deals, we are unaware of many actions those that represent us take behind closed doors. The transparency we think we see is unrealistic and just not the way that politics actually work. In the entire world, governance has become essential to the survival and future of society. No two governments are the same, and they are essentially ever changing as many people of power change constantly.

This being said influence from these individuals rule the political sphere. Whether it be a local councilperson, senator, governor, or even the president.IN the U.S. our daily lives and wellbeing rest in the hands of the few. Some of these politicians are honest and work genuinely for the people. However, agenda frequently takes over the arena and leaves the decisions of our livelihood to the gains of politicians.

Our generation has the lowest voter turnout, leaving the decisions that we do have to older generations. Some of those hold ideologies that are not relevant nor acceptable to the climate we live in today. This is not a call to action but more of a thought. As someone who was incredibly uninvolved in politics, I wanted to look at why I lacked the care that other people my age held so passionately. I believe it starts with my distaste of conflict, which many people my age also agree with. Politics can lead to confrontation and negative conversation.

Therefore, who would want to make friendships and interactions awkward with an avoidable subject. I found myself straying from these conversations and becoming uncomfortable when friends assert opinions that I do not agree with. However, in taking classes where this environment hinges the change in industries I study. I was forced to form some type of opinion in the matter.

From here I decided to change the lens on how I looked at politics. Instead of shying away, I really listened to what my professors felt about it and their assertions. I then did my own research, looking into the history of matters that my peers and professors talked about. Educating myself on what the facts were, versus believing in rumors that I heard through the grapevine.

I started engaging friends in a positive manner, as opposing opinions are valuable in a holistic situational viewpoint. I became comfortable in the discomfort of politics and worked to learn what may be in store for our world. My point for this is to educate yourself on genuine fact. Do not assert opinions based on information that your friend or even a professor gives you, keep your knowledge on the subject relevant.

You never know when legislation may come out that seriously effects your way of life. Most importantly, knowledge is power and power is what those that leave us in ignorance have over us.

Related Content

Facebook Comments