Self Care Within The Prison System

CJ725 Forensic Behavior Analysis Blog 

Self Care Within The Prison System

By Lynne Sullivan December 7, 2019

What is self-care?

Self-care is any activity that we do deliberately in order to take care of our mental, emotional, and physical health. Although it’s a simple concept in theory, it’s something we very often overlook. Good self-care is key to improved mood and reduced anxiety. It’s also key to a good relationship with oneself and others. (Michael 2018)

Being in prison can be a traumatic experience. The environment, the strict rules, regulations and lack of personal control all have an impact on your mental health. That is why self care while incarcerated is vital to a person’s mental health. Looking after your mental health with self care can help you cope with life in the prison system. Make positive changes to improve your well being. Build better support networks with family, friends and other inmates. Build better relationships with staff and professionals who can help. Self care is essential.

Since incarceration is a very traumatic experience. It can require a lifetime of self care management. There are several methods one can utilize while incarcerated to help keep a person’s mind at peace. However, not all correctional facilities have self care programs; some facilities may have more, some less.. People who are sentenced to state prison often have more programming that a county facility. This is due to the difference in sentencing structure. A typical county facility will house people for up to 2.5 years unless they have an on and after sentence in which case they would do both sentences back to back. State facilities are typically for people serving 2.5 years and up to life. These are the facilities that will usually have more programs available. Most all facilities can hold people who are awaiting trial. These folks can be waiting for years before actually being sentenced or sent home without a charge. 

Many prisons have programs that can be accessed by all who are incarcerated. These programs can be utilized for self care purposes. Taking care of your body and mind is essential to maintaining sanity within the confines of prison walls. Let’s look at the benefits of a couple methods of self care offered in prisons. A mountain of evidence shows that aerobic exercise—such as brisk walking, running, cycling, or playing tennis—can help improve your mood, reduce your stress, and boost well-being. Worrying now and then is part of life. Living within the prison system, worry is a part of everyday life. People with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), excessive, ongoing worry and anxiety about a variety of things can spiral out of control. This disturbed sleep often goes hand in hand with this pattern of chronic worrying. People with GAD may have trouble falling asleep, or their slumber may be fitful and restless. Add prison stressors to the equation and you have more than sleepless nights. Andrews (2017)

Weightlifting, on the other hand, is anabolic: It builds the body up and promotes the release of the feel-good hormone testosterone.Two new studies lend scientific credence to my experience. The first, published in 2017 in the journal Sports Medicine, found that lifting weights reduces the symptoms of anxiety. The second, published in May of this year in JAMA Psychiatry, found that lifting weights can help ease and even prevent depression. Both of these studies are particularly valuable because they are meta-analyses (comprehensive reviews of multiple experiments). In other words, these aren’t just one-off findings. Stulberg (2018)

There are other means of self care beside participation in activities provided by the facilities. For many who are locked in a unit for several hours a day they might play cards “spades”. This is a form of social activity that not only connects people but releases stress by taking you out of your thoughts. It is a time that you can focus on the people around you instead of where you are or why. When someone is missing home or feeling down, it is often good to surround yourself with people who can understand you. For others prayer or morning meditation is another way many will start the day. It gives them a closeness to a higher power, the hope, the strength that is needed to survive another day. It can be a way to hold peace within yourself. 

Self care comes in many forms within the prison systems. Each person will need to find what works best for them. However, no matter what that is isn’t important as long as they are being kind and gentle to themselves.



Andrews, L. (posted Mar 29, 2017) How Strength Training Helps Keep Anxiety at Bay: Resistance training may help you resist excessive worry and anxiety  Retrieved From: the Body

Stulberg, B. (Jul 5, 2018) Lifting Weights Helps Ease Anxiety and Depression  Retrieved From:

Michael, R. (July 8, 2018) What Self-Care Is — and What It Isn’t  Retrieved From:

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