Literature Review Proposal Final

Proposal for a Literature Review

Chrystal Garcia (

October 12, 2011

Objective of the Proposed Review

            I propose to examine the psychological effects of long term prison sentences on inmates. The focus of most prison systems is punishment instead of rehabilitation. As Craig Haney explains in his article, “Psychology and the Limits to Prison Pain”, the criminal justice system is extremely individualistic and “does not provide us with information and a context in which problematic situations can be defined and dealt with”.  This is why when inmates are released, they are unable to take control of their lives and continue to struggle with the same issues that led them to prison as well as the trauma they endured in prison. Because prison simply isolates inmates and does not help them to deal with their problems, they return to the same bad habits or become so overwhelmed by the lack of structure outside of prison that they re-offend.



            This topic first caught my attention in a sociology class I took on crime and deviance. The professor was discussing the goals of prison systems and the fact that there is not enough emphasis on the rehabilitation part of the process. In fact, instead of rehabilitating inmates, prison may have a negative effect on their psychological health. Researcher Erving Goffman described this negative effect as “mortification of the self”, which he explains is when an “inmate’s self-respect and dignity are slowly undermined through exposure to prison’s dehumanizing conditions”. These effects have been known to cause the prisoners anxiety, restlessness and irritability when they think of how they will cope with the outside world (Lipton, 1960; W.B. Miller, 1973; Sargent 1974). Psychologists today may call this institutionalization.

I would like to find studies that examine the effects of institutionalization and what is being done about it. From what I learned in my Introduction to Crime and Deviance class the solution to this problem may be a rehabilitation program. According to many who have studied this subject, since the start of the 1990s, there has been an emphasis on deterrence and incapacitation instead of rehabilitation in the prison systems (Feeley & Simon 1992; Garland 2001a; Pratt 2007). The change in the goal of the system has led to a change in the way that the prisoners are viewed and treated. Instead of being seen as good people who have made mistakes, they are seen as criminals who must be kept away from society. Because of this new way of thinking, they are not given any help to find out what got them there and how they can fix it. This causes problems for the former inmates who must not only continue to live with the issues that led them to prison, but also cope with the negative effects that prison has left them with, while also trying to reintegrate into society.


Literature Search Strategy

            I plan to use the textbook and my notes from my Crime and Deviance class to learn more about this subject. I will also use PsycINFO as well as PsycARTICLES and JSTOR to find more articles and studies that will have more details on the psychological effects of institutionalization on former inmates. There are many sociological articles that discuss the effects of prison on a person’s ability to interact with others however; I have not found many psychological articles that discuss their ability to function. I plan to continue to refine my searches in the databases and consult a librarian to find out if I am using the incorrect search terms or if there is simply not much research on the subject.















Bukstel, L.H., Kilmann, P.R. (1980). Psychological effects of imprisonment on confined

Individuals.  Psychological Bulletin, 88(2), 469-493.


Haney, C. (1997). Psychology and the Limits to Prison Pain. Psychology, Public Policy, and

            Law, 4(4), 499-588.


Munn, M. (2011). Living in the aftermath: the impact of lengthy incarceration on post-carceral

Success. The Howard Journal, 50(3), 233-246.

DOI: 10.1111/j.1468-2311.2011.00663.x


Phelps, M.S. (2011). Rehabilitation in the punitive era: the gap between rhetoric and reality in

U.S. prison programs. Law and Society Review, 45(1), 33-68.


Raphael, S. (2011). Incarceration and prisoner reentry in the United States. The ANNALS of the

American Academy of Political and Social Science, 635, 192-215. DOI: 10.1177/0002716210393321


Walters, G.D. (2010). Predicting recidivism with the psychological inventory

of Criminal Thinking Styles and Level of Service Inventory-Revised: Screening Version. Law Human Behavior, 35, 211-220. DOI 10.1007/s10979-010-9231-7.



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