Shock and denial
In the initial phase many prisoners suffer from denial and experience shocks that vary in severity depending on their personalities and coping skills. Some start to think that this is just a bad dream that will end soon.
Many ex-prisoners reported feeling intense fear in the initial phase, especially on the first day. The fear resulted from the fact that they were about to be introduced to a new environment that they knew nothing about, in addition to the uncertainty they felt about what they might find.
Wishful thinking and fantasies
During the initial phase, many prisoners fantasize about escaping, being released, walls breaking down, or finding a way out. Some people maintain that wishful thinking for years. This wishful thinking is usually also mixed with intense bad emotions such as depression and helplessness.
Total loss of control
Many Ex-prisoners reported feeling total loss of control when they were first imprisoned. The fact that they had no control on whatever was in the outside world made them feel totally helpless.
Confusion and feeling lost
Many people reported feeling confused in the initial phase of their imprisonment as they didn’t know what was going on. The shock experienced can lead to intense confusion, in addition to the feeling of being lost.
Many Ex-prisoners reported feeling very lonely inside prisons. Some said that even though they meet people and see others they still feel that they are totally alone. Many described Jail as a lonely place.
Many prisoners get severely depressed especially after losing hope of getting out fast and realizing that their imagined fantasies about being released are far from being true. (See How does it feel like to be depressed?)
Some Ex-prisoners reported feeling numb after some time in prison. Those Ex-prisoners said that after some time they became numb and stopped experiencing the feelings they initially experienced when they got in.
Some prisoners get remorseful, especially the ones who believe that they have done a big mistake, as they greatly regret what they have done. Many of those prisoners vow to never return to prison after getting out.
Many prisoners experience uncertainty about their ability to get out or the chance of getting released. This uncertainty usually makes the pain inside the jail more intense. (See Why do people hate uncertainty?)
Loss of hope
Many prisoners lose hope in getting out after some time and start believing that they will remain there for a long period of time. This loss of hope usually fuels the feelings of depression.
Many prisoners get suicidal thoughts and fantasize about dying especially the ones who are sentenced for a long period of their life.
Some prisoners reported that jail gave them time to reflect upon their lives and to become more wise. Some said that the experience gave them many insights and taught them a lot of things.
Many prisoners experience feelings of helplessness as they find themselves unable to do anything about their imprisonment nor able to do anything to affect the outside world they left behind.
A horrible experience
Many prisoners said that the experience is horrible and can hardly be described using words. Some said it’s like being buried alive while others said it’s like being in hell.
What does it feel like to be in prison?
What’s it like being in jail? What is it like to go to prison? What’s a day in prison like?