Understanding Post-traumatic Psychosocio Disorders of Returning Citizens

By Dr. O’Dell Johnson

After reentry, Returning Citizens (RC) are tasked with a variety of must dos under the supervision of parole or probation departments. RCs must find suitable housing and employment, as well as pay supervision expenses, all within a designated time-frame.

If the RC do not adhere to such agreements, violations can occur due to a breach, leading to recidivism. Based on empirical research studies, mental health factors that underlie dysfunctional behaviors are rarely considered when a violation is under review. Whether the RC has a diagnosed mental health disorder or not, the RCs mental health is negatively impacted by the incarceration experience.

Further, RCs experience both Post Traumatic Psychosocial Disorder (PTPD) and Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) after reentry, and each can be detrimental to the reentry processes if not effectively addressed. According to RISE, PTPD is the experience of living in infamy for the rest of one’s natural born life, an experience that causes severe harm in daily life after reentry. PTPD is initiated by the internal felt sense of individual loss of self, as well as the loss of belonging to a community. The felt sense of disconnect from society has been associated with progressive stress disorders, higher levels of anxieties, hopelessness, depression, anger, relational dysfunctions, suicidal tendencies or thoughts, and chronic substance use. Such comorbidity disfunctions can be devastating to successful and sustained reentry.

According to Terence T. Gorski, an international expert in the field of crime, incarceration, and mental health, PICS is a serious problem that greatly contributes to recidivism if not addressed properly. PICS is a mixed mental health disorder with five clusters of symptoms. Review symptoms below:

Institutionalized Personality Traits

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Antisocial Personality Traits (ASPT)

Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome

Substance Use Disorders

PICS often coexists with substance use disorders and a variety of affective and personality disorders. Currently, more than 60% of RCs who reenter society from long stays in correctional facilities suffer from this syndrome. Additional evidence shows PICS is a growing phenomenon in the expanding US correctional populations under the umbrella of mass incarceration.

Based on Research Institute for Social Equity observations while providing services within the criminal justice system, there appears to be little emphasis placed on the impact incarceration have on recidivism rates.