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Kat’s Blog: Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS)

Researchers at NCBI/National Institute for Biotechnology Information have suggested that Post-Incarceration Syndrome/PICS should be considered a specific sub-cluster of psycho-social problems that share or overlap symptoms with PTSD/Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

PICS symptoms are specific to those incarcerated and those recently released from incarceration.

For registrants diagnosed with PICS, cluster symptoms seem magnified due to not being able to fully reintegrate back into society because of registry constraints.

According to the NCBI, reported PICS cluster symptoms are characterized by “institutional personality traits, social-sensory disorientation and alienation”.

Those incarcerated are controlled, their every movement accounted for by the authorities. An inmate’s critical thinking, individualism, emotional and personal expression become deadened in a setting where one must maintain passivity towards authority figures and yet be able to display a certain level of controlled assertiveness towards other inmates for mere survival. Personalities become “institutionalized”.

Once on the “outside” individuals need to re-establish their individual identities and begin making decisions for themselves. Due to the rules and regulations of the registry and the authority it holds over registrants, being able to regain one’s sense of independence and personal identity in society can be extremely complicated.

Those experiencing post-incarceration syndrome suffer from feelings of alienation, of “not belonging” in social settings and fears that “anything good” they have is only temporary, that it can be taken from them at any time. As one becomes more accustomed to “living on the outside”, normally those kinds of feelings would lessen, gradually subside.

For those on the registry, these feelings are experienced for an extended period of time. Registrants worry all the time, about everything and with good cause. Every knock at the door, every wrong glance they may make, every action they take causes them to second guess whether or not they are breaking some vague registry rule that they may not realize they are breaking.

Registrants are challenged from re-entry into society, many find themselves outliers, forced to live on the fringes of communities with inadequate access to housing, employment and basic human relationships.

Social-sensory deprivation while incarcerated isn’t just solitary confinement, it’s the lack of socialization with the outside world, the lack of access to current technology that will be required to “fit in” to society once released from incarceration.  Relating to people in social settings can be scary and difficult for those who have had limited “normal” social contact while incarcerated. Relearning social cues and how to trust people once on the outside, can be crippling and debilitating.  For those convicted of sex offenses, incarceration comes with its own unique set of circumstances. Many registrants have suffered traumatic mental and physical abuse issues while in prison. Adjusting to a society where they may feel unwanted, disoriented, alienated and detached from their communities, is, in itself, traumatizing.

Criminal justice reform must consider the ongoing need for treatment of mental health issues both pre and post incarceration. For registrants experiencing PTSD and PICS, this need is especially important as mental health issues will surely be compounded when they try to re-enter society while living under the unforgiving constraints of the registry.


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While I was fortunate enough to get a light sentence of 60 days that I was able to do via weekends (which allowed me to keep my job and home), I otherwise still experience everything you’ve described. I haven’t had real friends with whom I socialized in nearly 7 years when everything happened. The few times I have attempted to reconnect, I just couldn’t handle it. There’s constantly this voice in the back of my head that keeps saying, “What if they find out? What if the information somehow gets by to my job and I lose everything?”. And making… Read more »

SR ~ I know what you mean. It is the uncertainty of not knowing the rules for other cities, counties, states or countries that put a damper on all of it. Nobody knows all the laws, including LE, judges and lawyers, and yet we are supposed to or risk a FTR. I am sure we could get away with a lot, but the mere thought of getting in trouble will keep us from living a real life. It is almost impossible to learn about all the different laws, so we, too, mostly stay within CA. Not really fair, but also… Read more »

@SR No doubt this registry scheme will put a dent in your social life, especially if you’re a socially active person. Luckily I am not, and another good thing I have going for me is that my real name is very very common. But I still can find myself on Homefacts if I use my middle initial. So your right about their data mining. I’m still listed publically on the state registry, but I plan on moving to a state that won’t list me publically because they consider my offense low level. Granted Homefacts and other 3rd party sites will… Read more »

@SR et al: There are a number of States with extended periods of time before you have to report. The one with which I’m most familiar is MN. There, you can stay 14 consecutive days (and/or 30 days in a calendar year) before you must report and only Tier III is on their public site. Though it must be done in person, MN also de-registers you when you leave. (They’ll send a letter to the address you give to verify your “move.”) If you plan to be there more than 14 days, you must tell them within the first 5… Read more »

Thanks AJ. Why is NY a no way? Looking at the travel list posted on this sight, NY doesn’t seem to require visitors to register.

Yes, that was my error. I had NY in mind for its draconian system once one must register. From what has been said on here, it’s probably okay as long as you leave before then. My apologies.

From what I also recall from here, NH’s rules could be parlayed for an extended stay, as long as done across calendar months.

@SR: Another place to consider is SC. According to their own SOR FAQ, a visitor can stay 9 days without having to register. There are residency restrictions near schools and the like for those convicted of certain offenses (they all sounded like contact offenses against a minor) but otherwise it seems better than many States. You do NOT want to have to register there, though, as it appears you cannot get removed from their registry unless, like LA from what I recall, your conviction is overturned by a judge or pardon. Fat chance of that happening for (m)any. Here’s the… Read more »

“Low-headache travel can be done and can be enjoyable.”

Your optimism isn’t exactly contagious around here.

It can be, but you must always go to places where you already know what will work and what won’t (i.e. know the “laws”/”rules”). That is unacceptable. It is not acceptable that I am not able to travel anywhere in the United States without even thinking about it. It is not acceptable that I have not been on probation/parole for well over a decade and yet I must still act as if I am. As far as I’m concerned, anyone who disagrees with that is a harassing criminal who cannot mind their own damn business or leave other families alone.… Read more »

@Facts should matter: “Your optimism isn’t exactly contagious around here.” —– Ok, and? Everyone’s mettle is unique. But I ask you, who controls and is responsible for one’s level of optimism or pessimism? Also, I said “low-headache” not “headache-free.” Maybe it’s just my German ancestry. After all, you can always tell a German. You just can tell him much! @Will Allen: Nowhere did I say it is acceptable. All I said is one can find ways to have some enjoyable travel, if properly done. Should I have to do so? No, but that does nothing to change the facts as… Read more »

Who has to worry about PICS when the government has set up the registry to try to prevent you from integrating back into society!?

@Gralpher intergrating or imigrating back into society. One wonders who’s in trouble today. Are we not born into trouble. One wonders if this movement is a movement of Trafficing or a or a prostitution type of trying of the mind in this loose way. Talk about smoking the word of God or abusing the word of God Abuse of Power. Yes when we say abuse is it a one sided afair in this electronic type age. Yes public safety is good but inducing via an internet type device is undoubably abusive and unchristian in many ways and facets. Now authorites… Read more »

The whole point of the registry is to prevent those on it from reintegrating into society and keep them running in and out of jail/prison for the rest of their lives. It’s not about “protecting” anyone, save politicians (legislators, DAs, and judges) who want brownie points with their constituents.

Glad they are finally addressing PICS. Kinda late for us old timers who have been suffering PICS for over 30+ years. Only light in my tunnel is the tier program which I qualify for. Even then, I’m not getting my hopes up.

Guess one can pick up new words by government today. Talk about the word “micromanage”. While I’ve heard of one managing their own affairs in the right way but micromanage is a bit over the top, overrated, or over data today in overkill. So if this registry is about data than we are all guilty and government is just as clean as a whistle blowing in the wind or was that “Gone with the wind”. Wonder who said frankly “Scarlet” I don’t give a damn. Was it government today. Seems today government has a handle on everything even the micromanagement… Read more »

I was watching Milton Friedman’s “The Role of Government in a Free Society” on YouTube. I have watched Milton many a times to help me sleep at night. Yet, in this particular episode, Milton identified two types of freedom: 1) freedom from coercion and 2) the cost of an item is free. Under the registry, we lack freedom. Sure, the government says we are no longer under custody, but the evidence is quite the contrary. In California, we are coerced to report in-person to re-register under penalty of law. We are coerced to not have freedom of travel as we… Read more »

@ New Person. You talk about Morgan Friedman’s position or should we compare it to Dennis Praguar or should we all of said No to women’s rights, but women or teens do have the right to lure one on the internet and they do have the right to blackmail because they are blessed only in childbirth. They even have the right to Traffic and cover their tracks as Government does so who’s playing the Samson and delliah trip to snare one with some jezabel scheme… I’m sure we all get the point in these issues. Nothing wrong with women as… Read more »

@Saddles… wut? Milton Friedman is an economist who supports capitalism as a way to gain freedom (or more freedom) and independence. His definition of freedom, free from coercion, reveals that the registry is coercion. When you compare the Smith v Doe, 2003 (the Alaska registry) to today’s registry, it’s gone above and beyond of mail-in reporting with only the local PD having that info as well as not sharing. The dissenters in the 2003 decision are proven correct by today’s registry. Make a mistake, get reprimanded, and then move on. The registry doesn’t allow one to move on because we’re… Read more »

@ new person Yep, the importance of a site like ACSOL is that it shows the other side of the story. Unfortunately the prevailing image that people get is always from a prosecutorial perspective feeding off the emotions induced by a handful of violent cases. The public perception is irreconcilable with the phrases “constitutional law” and “sex offender”. It’s a very difficult problem to tackle, and a shoo-in for bad legislation. So thank goodness for this site and the people that come here to help. Even when there’s bad news at least people can get informed. And it shows that… Read more »

Depression or PICS/PTSD is real and the sad thing is sexofenders cant really even be treated for these symptoms. Trying to do anything socially is pointlessness and in most cases impossible because 5 out of 10 people are gonna Google your name Its like reliving a nightmare over and over again. I also agree just because sexofenders are out of jail/ prison in no way shape or form are they free the registry is a virtual cell and life time probation. Traveling out of state is a challenge and very depressing as well. All theses laws were made to keep… Read more »

I hope your situation improves. The Registry Supporters/Terrorists/Scumbags win when their Hit Lists drag you down and cause you problems. Don’t let them steal your life. They are scum that will never stop trying to drag you to their loser level. You said, “Trying to do anything socially is pointlessness and in most cases impossible”. That is not the case. The Hit Lists might make it a little bit harder. But, what I found when I first started Registering is that one of few things that the Hit Lists is actually useful and good for, is to determine who some… Read more »

Being on the registry does put a huge dent in your life; however don’t let some government label define who you are. Let you define who you are and be proud of it. If someone doesn’t like you for being a registrant; it’s one less idiot you have to deal with. I’m lucky to be with someone that’s younger than me; but her entire family has known me for most of my life. Due to these laws my girlfriend; her family, my immediate family and I have learned how much harm it causes. My experience has educated people that once… Read more »

While I agree with the substance of your comment, may I point out that many of us don’t have the support system that you enjoy. This puts us in a position of vulnerability when it comes to people judging or putting demands on us. I myself am very comfortable in who I am as well as accepting what I have done to be in this position. Yet I feel I constantly must be doing more, being more, and accepting more in order to avoid being punted to the curb be an unaccepting society that doesn’t care about the person, only… Read more »

A.D.A.T I loved your post and couldn’t agree with you any more because that is largely been my story and my general experience too. I have a incredible support system with many people who love me and know the real me…not the kid who made a poor choice over 25 years ago. I too have tried to over compensate and live with a real integrity to disprove the label that I’ve been saddled with. For years I struggled with the stigma of that label. It gets old real fast being branded one of “those people”. I do admit that I… Read more »

I apologize I didn’t mean that I don’t feel for the people that lack support and I wish organizations would reach out to people. Just because someone is a label by the government doesn’t mean they can’t live a law abiding life; yet the government does make Every aspect of that difficult for registrants. I admit sometimes I forget that because I haven’t seen it; but just because I haven’t doesn’t mean I don’t think it exists. At the time I was being encouraging through my experience; but there are two sides to every coin and I haven’t been impacted… Read more »

Seems many on here are coming up with some good thoughts and getting the picture now about a lot of these internet sex sting operations. Course I’m not going to throw soap bars to Will Allen. This moral turpituide, must be something wicked or some type of advantage over others, or is it an unbalance type of judgement. One wonders what type of picture says a thousand words. Talk about the pharase “Open mouth insert foot” in this erotic game of internet exploritation. So where is the standard of judgement in a court of law. Is it hidden under the… Read more »

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