Effects of Torture on Prisoners.

Darvin Barthellemy

Professor Dillard

ENC 1102

24 April 2021

            Prisons have been in existence for ages now and are now a common practice in the world. It was first introduced in Europe in the early 19th century. Before that, imprisonment was a mere correctional facility but was a holding bay for suspects awaiting judgement and later proceeded to other forms of punishment. With prisons gaining popularity, criminals are subjected to imprisonment in these correctional facilities to serve jail terms as per the stipulated terms for certain offends. Currently, prisons are a common thing, with the facilities available almost in every town. The generally accepted terms of punishment are once tried in a court of law, and a suspect is found guilty, he/she is sentenced to a jail term depending on the degree of the crime committed. Prisons are nowadays designed to suit various criminals depending on age, gender and the criminal’s record.

The primary idea behind the formation of prisons was to act as correctional facilities whereby criminals were to be secluded from the community until it was deemed fit for them to rejoin them. The critical roles of prisons during their inception were restoration, rehabilitation, retribution, incapacitation and deterrence. Programs were formulated in these prisons that seek to instil discipline on the offenders, such as having a rigorous routine that was to be adhered to without fail and having to undertake manual jobs. These programs do not only seek to punish the offenders but are meant to make them productive and acceptable in society.

Initially, the idea of prisons was laudable as it saw serious criminals reform and be part of the society without threatening their peace. Criminals who underwent such correctional facilities came out reformed and equipped with skills that enabled them to become productive, thus not involved in criminal activities. However, with time and stricter measures being introduced to curb the rising criminal activities, prisons are no longer mere correctional facilities. Instead, they have turned out to become torture chambers. Prison warders have become torturous and have subjected the prisoners to mental and physical torture, which in extreme cases lead to convicts’ death. Recently, there has been a surge in the cases of torture cases across prisons in the world. This has left the prisoners with permanent mental or physical conditions that render them unfit to carry on with their usual duties. Therefore, to maintain the initial importance of such correctional facilities of reforming criminals, officials manning the facilities should desist from torturing prisoners and oversee their transformation process. This paper thereby seeks to discuss the effects of torture on prisoners, with vital interest being the mental and physical side.

According to Basoglu et al. (38) on torture and mental health, the study focused on the forms of torture. The study revealed that torture could be manifested in different forms, such as mentally, physically, and physiologically. The study defined emotional torture as an action that interferes with the feelings of an individual. Mental torture can be in the form of seeking to degrade someone’s feeling or esteem and make them feel inferior (Basoglu et al., 41). This could be through humiliation and sensory deprivation, leading to mental suffering and a feeling of inferiority.

Additionally, physical torture involves events that lead to physical injuries and cause scars. Physical torture can, in the end, lead to fractures and may render one permanently disabled or even lead to death (Basoglu et al., 42). On the other hand, physiological torture involves action that interferes with the stability of the mind. It destabilizes the mind, thereby subjecting one to conditions such as trauma, depression and anxiety. Another effect of physiological torture is sleep deprivation, as one has a feeling of insecurity and the mind cannot rest peacefully (Basoglu et al., 49). Prolonged physiological torture has detrimental effects on a person and, if not handled in time, could lead to significant weight loss and other observable health conditions while also reduced productivity.

Mental torture is found to be the most prevalent form of torture, especially in prison facilities. Prisoners are deprived of basic requirements that, in turn, affect them mentally. Most prisons do not have the necessary facilities or requirements that any normal being always aspire to have. For instance, the rooms are not well ventilated, poor sleeping conditions and non-quality meals that do not meet the standards for a person, among other conditions (Basoglu et al., 53). This kind of environment impacts an individual’s mental state as he/she deprivation. Continued mental torture may lead to permanent mental unfitness such that even after the victim completes imprisonment, the mental health would have been lost totally.

Mental torture is known to leave people with haunting memories that will always remain imprinted in the victim’s memory.  It usually affects confidence and limits the ability of the person in future endeavors. Usually, a person subjected to mental torture would not want to engage in some activities or with some people or even places as they seem to them like a reminder of their torturous past. The best way to help a mental torture victim is through intense counselling and guidance to erase the memories and bring back the person’s mental state.

Prisoners are a major victim of torture since there is a particular perception that force has to be used to impart change, which is not always true. Torture, however, is harmful and is against human right irrespective of the crime committed.  Victims of torture are most likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorders. Effects of torture do not only end after the torture but may even stay in the victim’s entire lifetime, and as time goes, the victim develops other complications. According to Johnson and Thompson (39), a study on the survivors of a Vietnam war found out that the survivors subjected to torture and trauma suffered from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD). The study further emphasized the prevalence of PTSD amongst the victims and found out that the female gender and the elderly were at higher risks of being exposed to PTSD. The terrifying and horrific memories experienced in the war accounted for the prevalence of the disorder among the veterans (Johnson & Thompson, 40). This reflects similarly on the prisoners. The prisoners are subjected to a terrifying experience that exposes them to such disorders later on in life, and some may not recover from the disorders.

Physical torture inflicts pain instantly, but it also may have a lasting effect on an individual. Physical torture involves activities that cause injury either to the internal or external organs. Such injuries may have long-term implications, such as disability due to loss or damage of vital organs of the body. For instance, victims suffering from lost eyesight due to injuries on their eyes have been recorded in prison (Johnson & Thompson 43). The scars developed from these injuries go a long way in the victim’s memory and may not get over them easily. This impacts negatively on their mental state and thus driving a person to depression and trauma.

As earlier indicated, prisoners are the most vulnerable to torture as they are conditioned to be defenseless. Also, the general perception that prisoners are dangerous people drives the warders into using a lot of force unnecessarily. Little has been done to look into the welfare and rights of prisoners across the world. Thereby, this is the most vulnerable group to torture, and none is on their rescue.  While serving their imprisonment, these prisoners are most likely to fall victim to any kind of torture. Coincidentally, despite the high prevalence of torture in prisons, there are very few clinical or heath experts to help address these conditions with the victims. Post-traumatic stress disorders are most likely to set in once a person has been subjected to torture. Therefore, it is necessary to seek medical assistance, which unfortunately is not available for prisoners. This explains the high prevalence of PTSD among prisoners.

Initially, the act of imprisonment is a kind of mental torture on its own. Depriving one of freedom and confining him/her in prison cells subjects the person to mental and physiological torture. Humans, by nature, yearn for the freedom of movement and interaction as that boost the mental and general wellbeing of an individual. Seclusion from loved ones can be traumatizing and, thereby, is a form of torture.

Besides imprisonment, the conditions of prisoners, which is already pathetic, is worsened by torture. The prisoners serving their terms have nothing to enjoy as the experience in prisons are deplorable and punishing (Kira et al., 209). The prisoners are subjected to torture on top of the confinement torture they are facing. These experiences shape an individual’s life in a traumatic manner and may even lead to suicidal thoughts (Kira et al., 212). Coupled with the life in confinement, torture drives prisoners to trauma, and thus they are more vulnerable than free people out of prison.

Persons who serve any form of torture, prisoners included, will likely develop some psychiatric conditions related to mental illness (Mollica, 581). These could be early indications of trauma and stress-related disorders. Psychiatric patients are likely to exhibit symptoms such as hyper-arousal, aggression, lack or excess sleep, nightmares and depression, among others.  Behavioral change is also likely to be witnessed as someone will begin to act differently (Mollica et al., 542). There are varying forms of psychiatric conditions ranging from autism, schizophrenia, bipolar and depressive disorders. Each of these conditions exhibits different kinds of symptoms and vary in terms of severity, and each requires attention from medical experts.

As pointed out, one of the symptoms of psychiatric conditions is aggression and depression (Mollica et al., 544). When one is suffering from such, he/she is likely not to blend well with other people. He/she may be dealing with a feeling of inferiority or may act wild among people. This explains why some mentally ill patients turn violent and do not want to associate with other people. Psychiatric conditions will limit individuals bonding abilities with the rest of the society and affect their social lives.

According to Mollica et al. (547), it was revealed that torture drives people into psychiatric conditions and spires the prevalence of systems related to psychiatry.  From the study, it was revealed that prisoners who have suffered cases of torture have ended up with psychiatric conditions. It was more prevalent among prisoners because they suffer almost all three kinds of torture (psychological, mental and physical). Their conditions are easily observed as they are confined in the same environment. Additionally, the cases of fights and even deaths among prisoners have been attributed to psychiatric ailments that pushes them to depression and aggressiveness, thus fighting amongst themselves. It is also worth noting that as prisoners are brought in first, they exhibit certain observable behaviors (Mollica, 550).  As they stay alone and are exposed to torture, they tend to change over time, and trauma begins to set in. Through torture, prisoners will be forced to behave in certain ways to adjust to the torture they are being subjected to. Prisoners often suffer psychiatric conditions, but the lack of close monitoring leads to the warring trend not being addressed, leading to suicides and murder cases in prison facilities, thus watering down the aim of what was intended to be a correctional facility.

Besides prisoners experiencing torture and other traumatizing events, other people may be faced with conditions that also expose them to the torture of any kind. For instance, war and natural disasters are torturous as they create thrilling memories of the anguish and suffering that one suffers. A study on the survivors of Vietnam detainees revealed the amount of torture they underwent (Mollica, 548). The study revealed that torture and psychiatric cases were prevalent among the detainees.  The detainees suffered a lot from the torture, and it is revealed that many were left struggling with PTSD, and several succumbed to the condition (Mollica, 552).

In conclusion, torture has become part of our daily lives. Despite the various legislative measures to curb any form of torture, they are still prevalent in society and any setup. Prisons were initially a good facility for corrective purposes, but their importance is becoming degraded with the rising cases of torture in these facilities. Prisons have become torture chambers where prisoners suffer a lot and face more damage than the intended reformation. Lives have been lost through torture and related cases, thereby calling for a thorough reform in these correctional facilities so that the intended objective is not lost. However, there are debatable instances that try to justify the use of torture on criminals in attempts to compel them to reveal certain information during interrogation, as some may seem stubborn and unwilling to share information. This, however, does not outweigh the negative effects of torture at large.

Works Cited

Basoglu, M., Jaranson, J. M., Mollica, R., & Kastrup, M. (2001). Torture and mental health. In The mental health consequences of torture (pp. 35-62). Springer, Boston, MA.

Johnson, H., & Thompson, A. (2008). The development and maintenance of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in civilian adult survivors of war trauma and torture: A review. Clinical psychology review, 28(1), 36-47.

Kira, I. A., Templin, T., Lewandowski, L., Clifford, D., Wiencek, P., Hammad, A., … & Al-haidar, A. M. (2006). The effects of torture: Two community studies. Peace and Conflict12(3), 205-228.

Mollica, Richard F., and Yael Caspi-Yavin. “Measuring torture and torture-related symptoms.” Psychological Assessment: A Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 3.4 (1991): 581.

Mollica, R. F., McInnes, K., Pham, T., Fawzi, M. C. S., Murphy, E., & Lin, L. (1998). The dose-effect relationships between torture and psychiatric symptoms in Vietnamese ex-political detainees and a comparison group. The Journal of nervous and mental disease186(9), 543-553.