Deprivation

Because imprisonment necessitates a substantial curtailment of an individual's freedom and many other basic rights, deprivation is an inherent feature of being incarcerated. In a study of long term inmates in Missouri, Sabbath and Cowles (1992) found that the most serious problems for long term prisoners included travel distance for loved ones, privacy during visitation, privacy in cells and crowding. These problems are indicative of various forms of deprivation. An earlier study, carried out by Timothy Flanagan to examine the attitudes and perspectives of long term inmates, asked inmates serving sentences of 10 years or more to priorize what they saw as the most serious deprivations of imprisonment. The 5 problems they listed, from most to least serious, were missing somebody, missing social life, worrying about how they will cope when released, feeling that their lives are being wasted and feeling sexually frustrated (Flanagan, 1980). When asked to describe the single most important or serious problem that they had encountered since being incarcerated, loss of relationships with family and friends outside the prison was consistently mentioned as the most serious deprivation. Some long term inmates cut themselves off from these relationships as a means of avoiding the anxiety and despair that accompany separation. However, for the majority of inmates who do not use this strategy, family ties become a two-edged sword over the years, providing encouragement and support and at the same time, making it more difficult to serve time (Flanagan, 1980). This study also indicated that most inmates reported that imprisonment had not seriously threatened their emotional well-being. However, when interpreting this data, the researcher pointed out that these responses concerning possible mental health problems could have been more reflective of the masculine role model that many inmates attempt to emulate. Furthermore, the data showed that the preferred method for dealing with most types of problems among inmates was to keep them to oneself. Fellow inmates either cannot be trusted or have problems of their own, family members are not seen as alternatives and institutional staff are viewed as unconcerned (Flanagan, 1980).

Another examination of the "pains of imprisonment," carried out earlier than the Flanagan study, was that of Graham Sykes. Four basic deprivations presented in his work concerned liberty, autonomy, personal security and heterosexual relations (Sykes, 1966). Sociological research of recent years has shed light on the effects of these deprivations.

Deprivation of liberty.

Few of the conditions imposed on inmates are as severe the loss of liberty. Inmates, particularly those serving their sentences in maximum security facilities or in special handling units (SHUs), must live in a world where their freedom of movement is rigidly restricted and regulated. For long term inmates, liberty may be deprived for substantial portions of their lives and can have a serious effect on their mental health. The inmate's loss of liberty occurs at two levels; first by confinement to the correctional institution and second, by confinement within the institution. At the first level, offenders are cut off from family, relatives and friends, producing what can be a painful deprivation and frustration in terms of lost emotional relationships, loneliness and boredom. Most of their waking hours are spent within the confines of their cells.

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