Occupational Therapy for Inmates


The rate of incarceration has greatly risen in the last few decades, and prisons are continuously being built to keep up with the growing number of inmates. Many prisoners suffer from mental and cognitive disorders, which can easily be aggravated by the type of environment in a jail. Most people overlook this, as the individual is in jail for a reason, but this is where occupational therapy for inmates can help. OT’s can also help in rehabilitation efforts upon release.

Occupational Therapy for Inmates

Assessing Prisoners’ Abilities

Occupational therapists working in prisons usually possess a different level of knowledge and skills due to the environment. Normally, OT’s can assess a patient’s abilities by observing the individual’s reactions to his/her surroundings. But, in a small visiting room, it can be hard to do so. Occupational therapy for inmates is most beneficial when the OT has great knowledge of the specific condition and what skills are necessary for success in different activities.

Mental & Cognitive Help

There are many education programs available to inmates, but some are unable to engage due to mental health problems, learning disabilities, or head injuries. Occupational therapy for inmates can increase their chance at rehabilitation if they are able to participate in these programs. Many of those incarcerated also have difficulties with speech and language, with very poor communication skills.

Occupational therapists can provide training in basic life skills and help develop healthy habits. It’s not likely that every offender will be able to find a job upon release, but developing healthy lifestyles and habits can produce a more positive outlook. An example is a gardening program where inmates can grow produce for the kitchen. Not only are the prisoners developing interests and hobbies, but also they’re learning how to work in groups and practicing communication skills.

After release, many offenders are re-arrested within a few years. Having the chance to develop skills and interests can give the individual a sense of purpose and decrease the likelihood of re-arrest. Acquiring knowledge and different skillsets can also help when it comes time for a job search.

Life After Prison

The age group of 60+ is the fastest growing prison population, rising 146% between 2002 and 2014. Many of these inmates have served long sentences and possibly haven’t been “out” since before the Internet existed. So, it can be a harder transition when there is little knowledge of today’s world.

Occupational therapy students at the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences at IUPUI are helping incarcerated individuals at the Indianapolis Re-entry Education Facility. The students assist those who have been in prison for at least 10 years. Many inmates are fearful for release due to the fact that they have little knowledge of the technology and lifestyle of today.

“I looked in the advertisements this week. I saw something, and I don’t know if it was a laptop, a notebook or a box of crackers. But it cost $785.”

Occupational therapy for inmates that are preparing for release can involve training in technology, socialization, finances, employment, health, and education. Some offenders have never used a smartphone, owned a checkbook, or haven’t had visitors for over 10 years. OT’s can also help prisoners reconnect with family members.

Occupational therapists can help inmates have another shot at life. They’ll get the help they need to succeed in programs and be able to explore their interests and skills. The ability to participate in different programs can be highly beneficial in rehabilitation efforts.

Author: Allied Travel Careers

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  1. We are graduate OT students working in a research team at Sage Graduate School of Health Sciences. We are surveying occupational therapists who work in forensic settings to examine the ways in which they work to establish the occupational identity of their clients. If you are an OT/COTA who works with clients who are involved in the criminal justice system, we welcome you to participate in our research. If this does not apply to you, but you have connections to OTs who work with criminal justice clients, please pass our survey along to these colleagues. Our survey takes no more than 20 minutes to complete. We greatly appreciate any contribution to our research. Thank you.

    Our research team came across a recruitment job listing for correctional facility occupational therapists. We encourage your company to forward this survey to your occupational therapy staff. This research may benefit your services by encouraging occupational therapists step outside common practices used in the correctional system. This research may lead to new concepts and approaches in criminal justice based occupational therapy.

    Click the following link to take our survey:
    https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/2PJSX7G

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