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How Does Post-Incarceration Syndrome Impact Reentry into Society?

Post-Incarceration Syndrome or PICS is a set of symptoms experienced by individuals who have been recently released from incarceration. These symptoms can vary widely but often include anxiety, depression, PTSD, insomnia, difficulty concentrating, and hypervigilance. It's crucial to recognize that PICS is not merely a consequence of the incarceration experience itself but is also influenced by the challenges individuals face upon reentering society.

During our time behind bars, we often endure trauma, violence, and the loss of autonomy. We may also lack access to adequate healthcare and mental health services. Upon release, we are thrust back into society with limited support systems, facing stigma, discrimination, and significant barriers to employment, housing, and education.


Post-incarceration syndrome (PICS) is assumed to be associated with higher rates of recidivism and returning to criminal behavior. One study found that individuals with mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, were more likely to reoffend after being released from prison (Wessely et al., 2005).


Another study found that individuals who had a history of mental health problems prior to incarceration were at increased risk for recidivism (Fazel et al., 2012).


As advocates for social justice and mental health awareness, it's crucial that we engage in conversations about PICS and work towards solutions that prioritize the well-being of those impacted by incarceration.


By raising awareness, advocating for policy reform, and supporting organizations that provide services to justice-involved individuals, we can contribute to creating a more just and compassionate society.


We encourage you to further explore this topic and consider how you can contribute to supporting individuals affected by PICS in your community. Together, we can make a difference.

If you or your loved one is showing signs of PICS symptoms call the SAMHSA's National Hotline at 1-888-662-4357 or text 988.


Reference: Fazel, S., & Danesh, J. (2002). Serious mental disorder in 23000 prisoners: A systematic review of 62 surveys. The Lancet, 359(9306), 545-550.

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