Trauma, Resilience, and Justice for Those in the Criminal Justice System

With so many stories of trauma associated with the criminal justice system, it is time to reexamine how this population is treated.

POETRY FOR INCLUSION

We are accustomed to hearing the old adages, “You do the crime, you do the time" and “You reap what you sow.” I continue to reflect on these words, especially in the context of individuals who have been incarcerated.

I serve a diverse patient population, and some of them have come in contact with the criminal justice system. I have heard their narratives of trauma and resilience. I have heard them describe the inhumane treatment they received, and how their experience was the antithesis of “rehabilitation.”

Criminal charges do not equate with treating people like caged lepers. If we truly want to decrease recidivism rates and health disparities for individuals in the carceral system, then perhaps we should not strip people of their humanity. I recommend we build on their strengths and provide them with the resources that will help them flourish when they reenter society.

I highly recommend the book From Prison Cells to PhD by Stanley Andrisse, MBA, PhD. His narrative is palpable. I appreciate his authenticity and transparency. It is never too late for the carceral system to have a facelift.

May this poem inspire reflection.

Prison cells clank clank

Inhumane fetid shackles

Faith severs bondage

Dr Clark is an outpatient psychiatrist at Prisma Health-Upstate and clinical associate professor at the University of South Carolina School of Medicine, Greenville. He served on the American Psychiatric Association’s Task Force to Address Structural Racism Throughout Psychiatry, and he currently serves as the Diversity and Inclusion section editor and advisory board member for Psychiatric TimesTM.