The Imprisoned Prisoner: Interpreting Ways to Facilitate Recovery and Growth for Prisoners. How Do Rehabilitative Services in Prisons Support Prisoner Well-Being? A Hermeneutic Literature Review
Ramanjam, Shivana Natasha Nandini
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Rehabilitative services currently delivered in prisons support prisoners to reintegrate into society as low-risk, law-abiding citizens. These services focus predominantly on mitigating criminogenic behaviour, and while some are effective, the prisoner’s greater wellbeing is given less importance. Moreover, rehabilitative services in prisons are often disrupted or influenced by rigid and complex prison cultures and systems. Using a hermeneutic literature review, this research study investigates how rehabilitative services can support prisoner wellbeing. This paper explores different approaches and techniques, including those less widely used, that can support prisoner wellbeing. Before investigating how rehabilitative services can support prisoner wellbeing, we need a better understanding of their inner worlds, including their authentic selves and deeper therapeutic needs. This research study will therefore examine the intrapsychic and interpersonal experiences of prisoners that remain or keeps them ‘imprisoned’. Prison systems commonly encourage a culture of obedience and oppression, leaving prisoners feeling further disconnected from themselves and others. The treatment that prisoners receive in such environments reinforces a false sense of self and overlooks prisoners’ needs to feel seen and heard at a deeper level. In this paper, there will be an analysis of frameworks and therapeutic techniques that are currently being used or can be further developed to rehabilitate prisoners. Some of these approaches will include the ideas of psychoanalytic theories that support this research, such as Winnicott’s ‘true and false self’ (Winnicott, 2018) and Reik’s ‘third ear’ (Reik, 1983). These theories discuss the notion of reaching into authentic parts of the individual that are hidden behind what is presented on the surface. Similarly, the eastern Hindu concept of the ‘third eye’ highlights seeing and connecting with truths beyond our normal perceptions. One therapeutic approach, influenced by the theories of Winnicott and Reik which can be used to support prisoner wellbeing is psychodynamic psychotherapy. This research study examines the position of psychodynamic psychotherapy, as well as general psychotherapy, in prisons by discussing some of the benefits and limitations of practising psychotherapy in this environment and the impacts on prisoner wellbeing. Research studies show that there is a great need for mental health support for prisoners, as well as support with developing life skills, identity and sense of self, and purpose in life. However, the challenges lie in finding ways to align therapeutic support with rigid environments. Findings that emerged in this research revealed that prisoners respond well to receiving support from therapeutic and empathetic interventions and that most want to be treated and seen as human beings, but often feel dehumanised. Psychodynamic psychotherapy or more therapeutic approaches were seen to positively influence the emotional wellbeing of prisoners and reduce their chances of reoffending, through the strengthening of relational skills and their sense of self and supporting prisoners to express emotions in a safe space.