Study: Avoidance, poor coping challenge prisoners returning to society

November 29, 2010

How do individuals often cope with reentry from prison to society?

Too frequently with avoidance, says Lindsay Phillips, assistant professor of psychology at Albright College in Reading, Pa. and author of the forthcoming paper, "Prison to Society: A Mixed Methods Analysis of Coping with Reentry," to be published by the International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology.

"There is a defined process experienced by participants, which is initial optimism about release, followed by craving substances, facing practical barriers, or feeling overwhelmed," she says. "This eventually results in avoidance of managing problems and emotions and substance abuse relapse, which culminates in recidivism."

Phillips studied 20 individuals who returned to an urban prison to examine their most recent reentry process to identify barriers they faced and coping strategies they used.

"Although some tried to cope in a healthy manner initially, all eventually resulted in avoidance of managing problems and emotions," she says. "All relapsed into . At this point, problems increased and all participants recidivated."

Participants identified a total of 57 instances in which coping mechanisms were used to manage barriers they faced during reentry. Of these instances, avoidance was used 37 times and problem focused (i.e. directly addressing a problem) was used eight times. "Participants reported 11 additional cases in which avoidance was used with another strategy or when other coping strategies were not effective," she says. "Therefore, in 48 of the 57 instances of coping by the 20 participants, avoidance coping strategies were used."

What participants thought they should do and what they actually did often conflicted, Phillips found. "Participants endorsed emotion-focused strategies, but these were infrequently used when they recalled their experiences," she says. "It's possible that they were unable to apply techniques to reduce their reactions to the barriers they faced. Or they might have known healthy coping skills, but did not use them in practice."

"Clinical work with the population should in part focus on identification of healthy coping mechanisms to help individuals manage emotions and deal effectively with problems they will face during reentry and throughout life," she says. "Recidivism can be reduced through the teaching of to prevent a return to crime."

Explore further: Study: Parents key to how we handle stress

Related Stories

Study: Parents key to how we handle stress

December 20, 2005

A German study examining adolescent to young adult coping styles finds those with coherent parental relationships deal more effectively with stress.

Stress -- don't let it grind you down

March 5, 2010

People who are stressed by daily problems or trouble at work seem to be more likely to grind their teeth at night. Researchers writing in BioMed Central's open access journal Head & Face Medicine studied the causes of 'sleep ...

Recommended for you

Biologists trace how human innovation impacts tool evolution

November 24, 2015

Many animals exhibit learned behaviors, but humans are unique in their capacity to build on existing knowledge to make new innovations. Understanding the patterns of how new generations of tools emerged in prehistoric societies, ...

How experienced buyers can mitigate economic bubbles

November 19, 2015

(—Over the last decade, many people got a tough primer on the effects of economic bubbles, as the bursting of the 2007-2008 housing bubble sent shockwaves through most of the major world economies. But property ...

First Londoners were multi-ethnic mix: museum

November 23, 2015

A DNA analysis of four ancient Roman skeletons found in London shows the first inhabitants of the city were a multi-ethnic mix similar to contemporary Londoners, the Museum of London said on Monday.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.