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Mental health and imprisonment

Alan Flurry

Sociology doctoral student Timothy Edgemon co-authored "Inmate Mental Health and the Pains of Imprisonment," a paper discussing the large majority suffering from poor mental health among the 2 million people currently incarcerated in the United States. He spoke about the paper with public radio station WRVO in New York:

Prison isn't supposed to be a fun place. It's meant to be depriving. It's part of the punishment angle of prison, Edgemon says. But there are different ways prisons can impact mental health, and Edgemon said each prison may be different. Prison overcrowding, activities offered, such as recreation and even television time can all effect an inmate's mental health.

Length of time in prison, age and race negatively affects mental health

Edgemon's research found a correlation between the length of time someone spends incarcerated and the impact on their mental health. He noted while it wasn't a big enough affect to include in his article, mainly due to data limitation, but other scholars have found a bigger correlation.

"The longer someone spends in prison, and the longer someone spends in a particularly deprived environment. So if a person spends a lot of time in an overcrowded facility or particularly if the person spends a lot of time in solitary confinement, that does have a negative impact on mental health," he said.

Edgemon also found along demographic lines, his research tended to mirror that of the general population.

"For example, as someone ages, their depression decreases. And that's also true for the general population. As people get older, they tend to have less depression, and we found that same trend in prison," he said.

Terrific and timely research, co-authored with Meigs Professor Jody Clay-Warner. Well-done by Edgemon to share this important scholarship with a public radio audience. 

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