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A prisoner, (also known as an inmate or detainee) is a person who is deprived of liberty against his or her will. This can be by confinement, captivity, or by forcible restraint. The term applies particularly to serving a prison sentence in a prison. This term does not apply to defendants who are pre-trial.

"Prisoner" is a legal term for a person who is imprisoned.

In section 1 of the Prison Security Act 1992, the word "prisoner" means any person for the time being in a prison as a result of any requirement imposed by a court or otherwise that he be detained in legal custody.

"Prisoner" was a legal term for a person prosecuted for felony. It was not applicable to a person prosecuted for misdemeanour. The abolition of the distinction between felony and misdemeanour by section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1967 has rendered this distinction obsolete.

Glanville Williams described as "invidious" the practice of using the term "prisoner" in reference to a person who had not been convicted

Among the most extreme adverse effects suffered by prisoners, appear to be caused by solitary confinement for long durations. When held in "Special Housing Units" (SHU), prisoners are subject to sensory deprivation and lack of social contact that can have a severe negative impact on their mental health.

Long durations may lead to depression and changes to brain physiology. In the absence of a social context that is needed to validate perceptions of their environment, prisoners become highly malleable, abnormally sensitive, and exhibit increased vulnerability to the influence of those controlling their environment. Social connection and the support provided from social interaction are prerequisite to long-term social adjustment as a prisoner.

Prisoners exhibit the paradoxical effect of social withdrawal after long periods of solitary confinement. A shift takes place from a craving for greater social contact, to a fear of it. They may grow lethargic and apathetic, and no longer be able to control their own conduct when released from solitary confinement. They can come to depend upon the prison structure to control and limit their conduct.

Long-term stays in solitary confinement can cause prisoners to develop clinical depression, and long-term impulse control disorder. Those with pre-existing mental illnesses are at a higher risk for developing psychiatric symptoms. Some common behaviours are self-mutilation, suicidal tendencies, and psychosis.

A psychopathological condition identified as "SHU syndrome" has been observed among such prisoners. Symptoms are characterized as problems with concentration and memory, distortions of perception, and hallucinations. Most convicts suffering from SHU syndrome exhibit extreme generalized anxiety and panic disorder, with some suffering amnesia

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