Psychological Effects of Inmates Who Are Wrongfully Convicted

THP18 By THP18, 24th May 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
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Those who serve their time in prison are guilty, but what happens to those who are convicted and sentenced to prison for crimes they never committed?

Psychological Effects of Inmates Who Are Wrongfully Convicted


Those who serve their time in prison are guilty, but what happens to those who are convicted and sentenced to prison for crimes they never committed? The following article will examine the psychological effects on those who are serving time in prison and the people who are exonerated and freed from a life behind bars.

Coping After A False Imprisonment

Many people who have been wrongfully convicted for a crime they didn’t commit suffer physical and psychological deterioration, not to mention an indeterminate prison sentence. Although it is different for each person, many have completely changed lives as they learn to cope with life after years or decades of imprisonment.


Those exonerated are victims of a miscarriage of justice and may see that they differ from those who are actually guilty of crimes. They may have an increased intolerance of injustice or a desire for the government to acknowledge their mistake. Some may even want compensation for the suffering they acquired during their imprisonment where the criminal justice system failed them as they seek apologies from those responsible for the judicial errors and public accountability and educate about the causes so they are not repeated.


The symptoms and psychological problems to those who have been wrongfully convicted are relationship difficulties, personality changes after the experience, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder(PTSD), Mood and Anxiety Disorders, a preoccupation with their legal case and protecting their innocence, chronic bitterness, and an unresolved feeling of loss. Post-release symptoms that arise from the threat due to the arrest and custody of their wrongful conviction are a chronic psychological trauma, long-term imprisonment, having to adapt to prison life, being separated to loved ones, missed life opportunities, a loss of generation in their family life or personal life history. They may have years of notoriety, fear, isolation, not to mention their preoccupation with claiming their innocence.

PTSD, depression and mental institutionalization due to an institutional schedule of their daily activities when they are exonerated where they may be unable to think for themselves or interact spontaneously in a naturally non-prison world. Their suffering makes sense of their conviction and incarceration but may make it difficult to build and grow from. They may have difficult dating and sexual relations where their trust and rage is exercised out of despair that leads to avoidance and distance. They may also have difficulty maintaining their marriages or reuniting with their children. Where parolees may be entitled to housing assistance or employment and other services like financial aid and health care, those who are exonerated after a wrongful conviction find little or no help with housing assistance, employment, financial aid or even health care, and with nowhere to turn, they may find no purpose in their lives.

Most exonerees of PTSD may also have trouble sleeping, have recurrent nightmares, difficulty concentrating, have an irritability of anger or hypervigilance, a psychological dissonance by feeling they were wronged by society, a grieving loss of feelings of what might have been may follow them the rest of their lives. Due to the poor medical care of prisoners, they may find that existing medical conditions may exacerbate existing conditions or leave others untreated.


The financial traumas most exonerees suffer are starting over at a later age where their peers have advanced in their careers or education. There are few professional opportunities for exonerees released as they may have little or no experience with computers or modern technology. And there may be no job placement or temporary housing available to those exonerated after a wrongful conviction. hey may also have to explain their exonerated status to prospective employers, landlords, and others who may wish to identify them as ex-cons, a stigma of having been in prison. They may have difficulty re-establishing their independence that was taken away while imprisoned. While securing housing and employment is important for re-integration into society, most employers may be unwilling to take a chance on hiring someone who’s been in prison, regardless of their innocence or guilt, leaving no stream of income or health insurance coverage.

Causes of Wrongful Convictions

I’ve discussed the psychological effects of wrongful convictions, but now we need to get to the truth that causes defendants to be wrongfully convicted. Victims of the miscarriage of justice who are innocent but found guilty can be due to eyewitness misidentification, invalidated or improper forensics, false confessions or admissions, informants or snitches, official misconduct, ineffective assistance of counsel, alleged police misconduct or error, incentivized witness testimony, alleged prosecutorial misconduct or error, but one thing that seems to exonerate inmates is the modern technologies of DNA testing.


In conclusion, exonerees suffer many stress-related factors like PTSD, depression, mental anxiety, and many financial hardships after serving years or decades of a wrongful conviction. What can we do to help those who’ve been dealt this miscarriage of justice?

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author avatar Memba Ben
29th May 2017 (#)

Hi Tootsie

Thanks for sharing this interesting read.

It really is sad as these situations have everlasting effects on these guys.

Because they've been wronged by the justice system, they are gonna (rightfully) have a lot of resentment and bitterness towards everything that judicial systems stand for and those feelings will be cultivated in the prison environment and especially what they will go through while they are in there.

Ultimately, I think the best solution would be for those who have been in such hellacious situations would be to take the time to come to terms with what happened and make peace with it before attempting to reintegrate themselves into society.

The best we can do is to provide a nonjudgmental environment,offer support and give as much understanding to their situation as we can.

Some people may argue that prisoners can't be rehabilitated but I believe that a nurturing environment can help them rediscover all the positivity that life has to offer.

So as long as they are given reason to believe that life can be worth living/ doesn't have to be all doom and gloom after time in prison, then those who feel like it is will make the most of their opportunity.

I apologise for rambling on like a madman, but I just had to share my to cents on this wonderful piece.

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author avatar Memba Ben
29th May 2017 (#)


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author avatar THP18
17th Jul 2017 (#)

Thank you Memba Ben.

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