Considering the psychological impact of quarantine in prisons

In March, Forensic Update published an article co-authored by Charlotte Hodkinson, a trainee Forensic Phsychologist and Kaizin Facilitator who works for Serco at HMP Lowdham Grange, entitled ‘Considering the psychological impact of quarantine in prisons’, reproduced below.

Considering the psychological impact of quarantine in prisons: The follow-on work at HMP Lowdham Grange

In December 2019, COVID-19 rapidly spread across the world causing a pandemic and implementation of prevention measures. Those who had been infected by the disease had to self-isolate or those who were potentially exposed to the disease had to enter a period of quarantine. To prevent the rapid spread of the disease, the United Kingdom was placed into a state of quarantine.

Prisons were also subjected to quarantine. There is extensive literature related to the psychological impact of isolation in prisons that is well understood compared to quarantine in prisons. Therefore, in order for prisons to implement the most effective policy and procedures to support both prisoners and staff during these unfamiliar times, an understanding of the psychological impact of quarantine is necessary.

A Rapid Evidence Assessment was completed to identify the psychological impact of quarantine and what prisons should consider to manage and reduce this. A total of 2630 studies were found and 10 were reviewed in the current study.

What is the psychological impact of quarantine?

The findings suggest that those who experience quarantine had increased levels of, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and acute reactive psychosis. Males are six times more likely than females and those who are 35 years old and younger to increase their alcohol use. Suggesting that it is the impact of life that is associated with psychological impact, not quarantine measures.

It has been highlighted those individuals were avoidant of others and places, others were avoidant of them, following their experience in quarantine and the impact this has had on them. Resulting in a loss of friends. In relation to the workplace, individuals my recognize their workplace as a hazard to their health.

What prisons should consider to reduce and manage the impact of quarantine during and after a pandemic?

Drawing on the recommendations of these studies, further recommendations are considered to encourage prisons to implement policy and procedures to support both prisoners and staff following the COVID-19 outbreak. These recommendations are in relation to the treatment and training for staff and prisoners on the effects of quarantine; rehabilitation programmes; media exposure educating individuals on the impact that the media can have on us and how to manage this and planning and preparation which encourages establishments to plan and prepare how to support those experiencing quarantine and following the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is happening at HMP Lowdham Grange?

Following the research and recommendations, HMP Lowdham Grange have begun to consider how to implement the recommendations within the establishment. Action plans have been created for both staff and prisoners which aim to minimise psychological impact. The action plan for staff highlights the need to increase and promote the support services that are available, offering individualized and tailored support, encouraging engagement within the workplace, focus groups to assess the management and preventative measures implemented and necessary policy and procedure.

The action plan for prisoners advises increasing the awareness of the psychological impact of quarantine, the assessment and monitoring of those impacted, appropriate management plans, effective communication, considering the benefits of removing basic regime from the Incentive Enhanced Privileges scheme and establishment hygiene.

Bespoke action plans that support departments on coming out of the pandemic have been proposed and have been created for the psychology department. Finally, a TV information package about the psychological impact of quarantine is currently being created by Charlotte Hodgkinson, who has partnered with Nottinghamshire's NHS. This information package aims to increase staff and prisoners awareness of the psychological impact of quarantine.