The Disproportionate Negative Psychological Effects of COVID on Prisoners in the United States
Shiple C (2020) The Disproportionate Negative Psychological Effects of COVID on Prisoners in the United States. SciTech Central COVID-19.
Received: October 21, 2020 Accepted: October 27, 2020 Published: October 28, 2020
While there has been legitimate concern surrounding the physical health of prisoners during the COVID-19 pandemic, it is also important to consider their mental health. The United States prison system has existing circumstances that contribute to poorer mental health among prisoners compared to the general population. These circumstances include the perceived and actual lack of agency that prisoners in their own lives. When combined with the overcrowding and poor sanitation present in US prisons, this lack of agency translates into an inability for prisoners to properly protect themselves from COVID-19, which then leads to heightened anxiety. In response to COVID-19, many prisons have enacted emergency protective measures that increase the social isolation of prisoners and have a negative impact on their mental health. These include the suspension of visits by community members and physical confinement to cells. COVID-19 may play a role in deepening the health disparities among people of color and white people as prisons are disproportionately made up of people of color. While there are actions that prisons could take the mitigate the psychological effects of COVID-19 on prisoners, underfunding poses a formidable barrier. This means that the efforts of policy makers, family members, and other concerned individuals are required. Although COVID-19 poses new challenges to the prison system, it largely exposes the existing inadequacies in protecting the physical and mental health of prisoners.
Keywords: Forensic psychiatry; COVID-19; mental health; prison; social isolation; anxiety