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MENTAL HEALTH AND WRONGFUL CONVICTION: THE PSYCHOLOGICAL SEQUELAE OF UNFAIR IMPRISONMENT

When it comes to mental health, it is often neglected and is the least discussed topic. In the case of wrongful conviction, there is barely any research conducted stressing the psychological outcomes of those held imprisoned wrongfully.

While those who have been abused by wrongful conviction, the psychological consequences of wrongful conviction include severe mental health issues, like constant changes in personality, severe symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and depression, adjustment glitches, relationship problems, signs of chronic hostility, isolation, and feelings of isolation. Not only this but comorbidity is also prevalent in wrongfully convicted individuals. Likewise, several guiltless grieve from depressive disorders and significant substance dependency or abuse despite the traumatic stress responses.

Following are a few psychological adjustments that a wrongfully convicted person has to make.

  1. ADAPTATION

A person has to undergo extreme adaptation, such as coping with routines with the despair of detention, fatigue, and enduring legal encounters. These adaptations may enable custodial survival but cause chaos in a wrongfully convicted person’s life. It has been reported that many of such men, after being freed from detention, are so conditioned to obey orders from jail officials that they find it hard to operate in the amorphous environment of the home.

There is no doubt that these men experience feelings of shock and unreality due to their sudden release from prison, struggling to make decisions and performing everyday life activities. They have been ridiculed for the practical hardships of daily tasks such as using a microwave, crossing the street, or managing money.

  1. COPING UP WITH STIGMA

Additionally, many pieces of research reveal that those wrongfully convicted have been persistent victims of stigma about others’ assessments of their character. Despite being guiltless, they are afraid to be greeted with social rejection and fear due to the sedate cruelty of unfair imprisonment.

  1. AFTERMATHS OF LOSS AND SEPARATION

The forgiven enter into the world of loss and face hardships such as emptiness, grief, and separation. This wave of unexpected difficulty in instability from imprisonment to exoneration develops persistent insecurity and ambiguity. These people are set free with almost no time to prepare for the outside world before throwing them into a novel reality.

Once the wrongfully convicted have separated from their loved ones, the same happens when the exonerated are brusquely separated from their prisons. These radical cutoffs can cause protracted feelings of loss amongst the acquitted. For example, they may be prohibited from contacting anyone in detention and feel intense embarrassment about leaving others behind. Consistent separation from a life in prison—though despicable—can lead to feelings of severe loss and hostility that seems nearly impossible to resolve among the acquitted.

  1. SENSE OF BETRAYAL

The exonerees experience severe trauma for their wrongful conviction. As a result, they go through immense withdrawal, reluctance to reveal the details of their painful experiences, and feel less proficient in emotional intimacy and expression.

They attempt to seek their emotions that had been racked with guilt and shame. They develop suspicion from the betrayal of wrongful detention that can further aid isolation as an involuntary coping technique to endure prolonged confinement. It has also been evaluated that many of the wrongfully detained would thoroughly evade social contact and sustained engross in self-isolation after their liberation from jail. Many defined the horrors of not being able to love their families. These reactions may be specifically disturbing for acquitted who look for reconnection, fighting to fit back into their communities and families.