A lot of people feel that those who have been sentenced to serve time in jail—especially for serious crimes—should not be given any “special treatment”. In other words, that their time in jail should be seen solely as a punishment. According to this view, anything beyond the basics of decent food and healthcare for physical ailments is more than most prisoners deserve.
However, there are many reasons, both pragmatic and moral, why prisoners should receive the care and therapy for their mental health that they need.
First and foremost, access to psychological and psychiatric treatment is, or should be, accepted as a fundamental right. No matter what somebody’s done, if they have a broken leg or a nasty infection, a human rights ethical code means that they should get treatment. The same should go for mental health issues.
Secondly, prisons are difficult, stressful places for everyone—not least the prison guards. It’s hard enough being a prison guard without also having to deal with prisoners whose mental health issues are not being met. Prisoners who are getting the care they need are more likely to be compliant and to engage with staff in a positive manner, making the prison environment easier for everyone.
Thirdly, while prison is absolutely about punishing people for their transgressions, it is also—or should be—a place that offers rehabilitation. Disproportionate numbers of prisoners have mental health problems compared to the people “on the outside” and disproportionate numbers of them come from very troubled families, with problems that can include alcoholism and drug abuse, physical and sexual abuse, material deprivation, and a wide range of other issues. It is very difficult for many prisoners to engage with efforts to rehabilitate them in a meaningful way unless they have the psychological and/or psychiatric treatment they need—often alongside classes to promote literacy and other important life skills. Most prisoners re-enter society on serving their terms, and if they are in a better place psychologically, and ideally have also acquired some skills, they are less likely to reoffend in the future.
Fourthly, many criminal behaviours are learned and “passed down” in families and communities. In order for families with a history of criminal behaviour to break the cycle and raise a new generation with more positive values and a better attitude towards things like education, work, and civil responsibility, they need support. Prisoners who are fathers (or mothers) will be better parents if they have been given the help indicated by their particular set of needs.
Fifthly, prisoners often need support as they transition from life in prison to life on the outside. Even after a relatively short term, people can become institutionalised, and struggle to adjust. Without help, some even reoffend to get back “inside”.
Providing prisoners with psychological treatment isn’t just the right thing to do from a moral stance—over time, it also saves money and reduces crime.
WHO CAN I SPEAK TO FURTHER ABOUT THE ISSUES IN THIS ARTICLE?
For help with the issues discussed in this article speak to one of our therapists here at Private Therapy Clinic for a free initial chat or to make an appointment.
Why is it Good to Offer Therapy in Prison? was last modified: January 7th, 2021 by Private Therapy Clinic
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