Recently, we have seen how 76,000 prisoners are going to be prematurely released to help with the spread of Covid the prisons. However, not many of us know the status of which prisoners are being released. Dana Simas, CDCR spokesperson, says that "'The goal is to increase incentives for the incarcerated population to practice good behavior and follow the rules while serving their time, and participate in rehabilitative and educational programs, which will lead to safer prisons (Itchon, 2021).'" While this can help prevent the spread of Covid and create a safer environment within the prisons, this act can have either a positive or negative impact on society.
During this time everyone has experienced heightened anxiety. Covid has created an environment where no one feels safe to be outside while simultaneously having to worry about how they are going to pay their bills and every other responsibility they had before the pandemic. The world did not stop, but the pandemic made it more difficult for some people to work to earn their living. With that being said, some families that had family members in prison feared for their safety. While some prisoners were fortunate enough to be released, they are entering a world that is totally different from when they were locked up. Not only do prisoners have the anxiety of fitting into the new society, but they also have the new anxiety of relearning how. to live n a society that i going through a pandemic. "With shelter-in-place, closed businesses, and the economic downturn, it can be especially stressful for former inmates (and relatives) in thinking about how they will mange financially (Piel, 2020)."
Not only do we have the mental health aspect of this situation but there are certain risks to consider. There's the risk of substance abuse which is the result of "poor social support, medical comorbidities, and inadequate economic resources (Piel, 2020)." It is not common for those who were formerly incarcerated to fall into old habits due to lack of resources or social support. Following this issue is the risk of suicide because with the lack of any support, one can feel helpless and can see suicide as the easiest way out. the pandemic has been hard on everyone, but for those who are being released, most of them have to start from the ground up. "[R]esearch has demonstrated that suicide rates—even in the absence of a pandemic or other disaster—are higher among all classes of people with criminal justice involvement than the general population, including those transitioning from incarceration to life in the community (Piel, 2020)." One can only imagine what transitioning from prison back into the real world, especially one that has completely changed due to a pandemic, can be like.
There is a lot to consider with this sudden release of prisoners. It is hard to wrap our heads around whether this will have a positive or negative aspect on our society. Research shows that those who are formerly incarcerated need more support from society, but is society willing to lend that helping hand? Are there ways we can help ease the anxieties of those entering a new society after being locked up while simultaneously easing the anxieties of those who fear what is to come with the pandemic?
Itchon, R. (2021, May 11). Early release for 76,000 California inmates. Pacific Research Institute. https://www.pacificresearch.org/early-release-for-76000-california-inmates/.
Piel, Jennifer. (2020). Letter to the Editor—Behavioral Health Implications of Inmate Release During COVID‐19. Journal of Forensic Sciences, 65(4), 1379-1381.