Mental Health in Prison: A Trauma Perspective on Importation and Deprivation



Prison is primarily intended as a punishment for criminal acts. It is an establishment which aims to punish those who commit crime, protect the public from crime and criminals, and reform criminals into law abiding citizens, thus reduce re-offending. It has however, been reported that imprisonment increases vulnerabilities and heightens mental ill health. Studies across a variety of counties have reported that the prevalence of mental illness in prison far exceeds that of the general population. Several studies have suggested that prisoners experience a number of pre-prison adversities which contribute to subsequent mental ill health. However, there are additional reports that prisoners develop mental illness due to the prison environment. This debate is rooted within a theoretical framework which considers importation and deprivation models (i.e., do prisoners take mental illness with them when they are imprisoned or do factors associated with being imprisoned cause mental illness to develop?). This current paper discusses how this theoretical framework may be placed within a trauma context. Many studies report that trauma precipitates the development of mental illness. Trauma is often prevalent for individuals prior to imprisonment and often experienced during imprisonment. Thus, it is suggested that the adverse effects of trauma are cumulative and thus likely to precipitate severe mental illness suggesting that mental illness in prison is attributable to both importation and deprivation perspectives.

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International Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory | ISSN : 1916-2782