A study conducted in 2010 reported that, in the US, there are more mentally ill people in jails than hospitals. Lack of proper contact with family members due to overpriced prison calls can further inflate this statistic.
The study also found that the percentage of inmates and prisoners with serious mental illness had shoot up to 16% from 6.4% in 1983. They are mostly diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or major depression.
This dilemma is compounded by the difficulties inmates and their families face to keep communication lines open. With no family or friends to talk to, most prisoners tend to feel heightened anxiety leading to hallucinations and other mental health problems.
Effect of Isolation on Mental Health
Social isolation can have devastating effects on an individual’s mental well-being. It is much more so for people living behind bars. While free individuals can reach out to friends and family members anytime they want, prisoners are legally required to be isolated from society.
Several case studies reported that lack of human contact for prisoners in solitary confinement can lead to a cognitive breakdown. This means that if an otherwise mentally healthy person spends time in jail, there is a high chance for them to develop psychological issues while inside. Instability in inmates with pre-existing mental conditions before entering prison can worsen too.
Lack of emotional support in times like this often results to the inmate wallowing in depression and other mental issues. Some even tend to develop an aggressive behavior which most often leads to violent outbursts.
This is why constant contact with families, friends and loved ones are very important for inmates. It eases their loneliness and keep feelings of abandonment at bay.
Unfortunately, prison calls in the US can cost up to $17 per 15 minutes. The exorbitant cost means that most families can barely afford to maintain regular communication with inmates.
The Burden of Expensive Prison Calls
A study in 2015 revealed that one in three families have to go into debt just to maintain regular contact with loved ones inside jails. For most, it’s a choice between calling their loved ones or putting food on the table.
A Reddit user named joechmeaux said “It’s cruel and unusual punishment to price-gouge people who have no money”. Another user claimed “I spent well over 300(USD) just talking to one person for a few minutes a day”.
The need for lower jail call rates gave birth to JailAid, a prison support initiative which assist inmates and their families maintain communication at lesser costs. The site offers resources to families on how to cut costs on prison calls, mail postcards, send money and look for prison support groups near them. It even has an extensive list of inmate locators for prisons all around the country. It aims to preserve the bonds between the inmate and their families so both can survive the most difficult time of their lives. Since its inception, it has already helped thousands of inmate families all over the US – a testament to the country’s need for reforms on prison calls.
Some positive changes have been made the past few years though. But until prisons remain focused on making profit from inmate’s miseries, families will suffer and mental health in US prisons will continue to degrade.
JailAid was created to assist inmates and their families maintain the bonds they both depend on to survive. It offers a complete package of resources for families to cope with incarceration of loved ones as well as for inmates to make prison life more tolerable. You may reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org