JEDDAH – Therapists in the Kingdom are shedding some light on the emotional and mental state of prisoners waiting for their sentence to be carried out. Grave feelings of guilt, depression, nightmares, and flashbacks normally haunt the prisoner who has been sentenced to either life imprisonment or death. Those awaiting the death penalty are consumed with guilt, thoughts of death, reenacting in their minds the evil deed that they have done, and suffer from severe insomnia, loss of appetite, and anxiety.
“The emotional down-spiraling and negative psychological impact becomes evident on the prisoner as soon as the judgment has been announced, especially if the verdict reached was life in prison or the death penalty. Depression and anxiety are in most cases unavoidable even if reform and rehabilitative services are provided in the prison. Intense guilt, dwelling on the crime committed, flashbacks of the rage that drove the prisoner to harm his victim, and terrifying nightmares are constant companions during his life in prison and they expel any desire to eat, sleep, or even live,” said Muhammad Al-Hamed, a psychiatrist.
“The prisoner who has been sentenced to the death penalty fluctuates between bouts of anxiety and the fear of death with periods of hope and supplication that the family of the victim will forgive him and relieve him of retribution. He is plagued by constant regret for perpetrating the crime that will lead him to the death chamber. All of these feelings are normal reactions and are part of human nature. Unfortunately, in some people’s personality make-up, they have difficulty controlling their anger, behave impulsively, and fail to think of the future consequences of their actions. It is this type of people that are prone to violence and may pose a risk to themselves and others,” continued Dr. Al-Hamed.
To cope with the fear and anxiety from the pending penalty, the prisoner may find some solace and relief by reading the Holy Qur’an, making supplication, performing prayers, and asking Allah for forgiveness. The prisoner places all trust and reliance on Allah to rescue him from his situation and hang on to a thread of hope that the family of the deceased will drop their demands for retribution.
According to Dr. Al-Hamed, recitation of the Holy Qur’an, patience, remembrance of Allah, and prayers are the only sources of nourishment and comfort for the prisoner’s body and soul.
“The entire life of the prisoner flashes through his mind during the brief moments on the ride from the prison to the place of execution. If the news that the victim’s family has pardoned him is received, it usually takes several minutes for him to comprehend that he has been given a second chance. He feels as if he has been reborn and it is not uncommon for the prisoner to faint and fall to the ground from the intense feelings of elation and liberation. Once the nightmare of the death penalty has passed, this person will need psychological therapy and rehabilitation services to allow him to return to a normal life, help him recover from his feelings of guilt and fear of death, train him in communication skills, and to prepare him to interact with the society outside the prison walls,” added Dr. Al-Hamed.
“Being confined in jail causes a person to become introverted, brooding, and socially withdrawn. And if the sentence for the death penalty has been announced, the prisoner becomes increasingly nervous, frightened, and anxious. There are several instances in which the aggrieved family pardons the perpetrator at the very last minute. In such cases, the released prisoner will be in great need of psychological therapy and support to treat his fears, nightmares, and recurrent flashbacks and to enable him to become a productive member of society,” said another consultant psychiatrist, Muhammad Brasha. — SG