Aromatherapy in Prison
Cells in correctional facilities may serve as all-in-one bathrooms, bedrooms, and dining areas. With little or no ventilation, many cells exude and retain unpleasant smells. Odors drive emotions and behavior on a subconscious level, based on associations and previous experiences.
Noxious smells may contribute to increased anxiety, reduced prosocial behavior, and recollections of unpleasant memories, all of which can elicit or aggravate negative behavior in incarcerated persons. In contrast, certain smells can trigger positive physiological, emotional, and psychological responses. Lavender has been found to be an uplifting and soothing scent that helps reduce stress, anxiety, and insomnia. Some studies suggest lavender’s effectiveness in treating neurological and psychological disorders.
To test the usefulness of aromatherapy in a prison setting, randomized controlled trials conducted at several facilities will test lavender’s effects on incarcerated persons who are randomly assigned each week over the four-month trial duration to aromatherapy (intervention) or conditions-as-usual (control; no aromatherapy). Trial participants will be exposed to both conditions, and their behaviors will be compared between the intervention and control weeks, to include misconducts and disciplinary actions. Secondary outcomes include participation in programming, requests for psychiatric appointments, and rates of depression.