12 January 2016
Prior research has found high levels of depression and stress among persons who are incarcerated in the United States (U.S.). However, little is known about changes in depression and stress levels among inmates post-incarceration. The aim of this study was to examine changes in levels of depression and stress during and after incarceration in a tobacco-free facility. Questionnaires that included valid and reliable measures of depression and stress were completed by 208 male and female inmates approximately eight weeks before and three weeks after release from a northeastern U.S. prison. Although most inmates improved after prison, 30.8% had a worsening in levels of depression between baseline and the three-week follow-up. In addition, 29.8% had a worsening in levels of stress after release than during incarceration. While it is not surprising that the majority of inmates reported lower levels of depression and stress post-incarceration, a sizable minority had an increase in symptoms, suggesting that environmental stressors may be worse in the community than in prison for some inmates. Further research is needed to address depression and stress levels during and after incarceration in order for inmates to have a healthier transition back into the community and to prevent repeat incarcerations.