However, for convicts who have spent years in jail, being freed is fraught with anxiety. Confusion, remorse and humiliation, dread and concern, the knowledge that their own conduct has altered, and maybe even "homesickness" are among the emotions freed convicts face. Being out of prison is only the beginning of their troubles; now they have to find work, make friends, get an apartment, pay off debts, deal with the police, fight drug addiction, etc.
Prisoners who have been released before will tell you that it isn't easy getting back on your feet after such a long stay behind bars. Even after several years, many former inmates struggle with feelings of guilt and shame about their crimes. Many release candidates experience difficulty reading other people's minds or feeling like they belong somewhere. Some return home after years away from family members who have moved on with their lives without them knowing anything else happened to their sons or husbands. Others return to cities they've never visited before with no money, no job, and no idea what to do next.
Some release candidates end up right back where they started from. They may be rearrested for new crimes or fail to keep track of friends while inside, meaning they're labeled as "absconders" and aren't allowed community supervision. For this reason, it's important for prisoners to follow all directions from the court, including any orders not to leave town without permission.
While the majority of convicts, especially long-term offenders, acclimate well to prison life, many do not cope well with the miseries of incarceration. During the early stages of incarceration, maladaptive behaviors such as emotional disorders, self-mutilation, suicide attempts, and jail disobedience are most frequent. As prisoners become more stable within the institution, these behaviors diminish but cannot be eliminated entirely.
Inmates that come into contact with the justice system tend to suffer from mental illness to a greater extent than the general population. This is due in part to the fact that prisons and jails serve as incubators for additional crime by releasing previously incarcerated individuals into society, who then tend to reoffend at higher rates than those who were never imprisoned before. Additionally, inmates have an increased risk of developing mental illnesses themselves; studies show that up to 80% of inmates suffer from some form of mental disorder upon admission to custody.
Prisoners that can handle their emotions and live legally nonconforming lives inside correctional facilities can be effective role models for other inmates, which can help them adapt to prison life. However, this group of prisoners comprises only a small fraction of all inmates.
Overall, prisoners tend to adapt to prison life over time as they establish new relationships with other inmates and staff members, receive necessary medical care, and acquire educational opportunities. However, initial reactions to incarceration may include feelings of anger, frustration, depression, or anxiety.
Imprisonment may have a significant impact on a person's thinking and behavior, resulting in severe depression. The psychological impact on each prisoner, however, differs depending on the time, situation, and location. For some, incarceration may be a terrifying and miserable experience that takes years to recover. For others, it may not seem like prison life to them at all. Some prisoners view their incarceration as a way to get back at someone else, while others see it as an opportunity to start over.
Prison can be a very isolating experience. In general, prisoners tend to be alone a great deal of the time. They may spend many hours each day in their cells or in small groups inside the prison facility. Often, there are no activities available to them during much of this time, so they have nothing to do but think about themselves and their problems.
When someone goes to prison, they usually come out with several issues still unresolved. In order to succeed once released, they will need to find a way to make amends with those they have wronged and to prevent future conflict from arising; otherwise, they will continue to cycle through detention facilities.
According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons, incidents happen in prisons. Although unlikely, any given inmate could be involved in an incident that would result in serious injury or death.