When a loved one is being released from prison, it may fill you with many thoughts and feelings of excitement. You may begin to plan what you will do and what you will say to ensure that he/she feels as comfortable as possible getting re-acquainted with society as a whole. However, are you truly aware of what your recently released loved one’s needs are?
According to StateOfOpportunity.org, what recently released inmates need, want, and think of may differ greatly from your own. In an article by, Jennifer Guerra, several former inmates were interviewed and shared advice that they would give to current inmates who are about to re-enter society. Some interviewees stated that having a mentor was highly beneficial giving them a sense of accountability to someone, and increasing their chances of not practicing the same behaviors that landed them in prison in the first place.
Other recently released interviewees gave the following tips: “write plans and goals down, to be organized, complete a resume, get addresses and phone numbers of places you need to go to get your license, healthcare, etc. It’s easy to become overwhelmed with these simple tasks?” They all agreed that there will be bad days, but that those re-entering society should use those days as a reminder of how far they’ve come.
Moreover, the importance of getting an education was highly recommended. Either taking a trade, or just diving right into the workforce will give those re-entering society a sense of purpose and keep them occupied reducing their chances of getting into undesirable acts. Reaching out to family, friends, or a local church, are other great ways to help re-entries stay in a good place mentally and socially.
A key factor for re-entries to remember is that life today is not the same as it was before going to prison. New things have been built, old things have been torn down or replaced, technology has changed, which can be overwhelming. This is where a strong support system such as family, church, and good friends are all helpful resources. Re-entries should take it slow because there’s a lot to process.
An even bigger obstacle than absorbing societal changes, is landing a job. According to the former inmates interviewed, it is extremely difficult to gain employment once their criminal records were discovered. Inmates will always be judged by people, but it’s important for them to remain positive. The length of time a person was incarcerated doesn’t matter to the rest of society because in their eyes, inmates “are nothing more than a criminal.” In any case, it’s not impossible to override societal distaste. According to those interviewed, it’s “up to us ex-felons to show society that we are just as capable and worthy of being productive members of society as anyone. It’s up to us to change the stigma that comes with being labeled an ex-felon.”
Although the transition from prison back into the world around us can be challenging, of the group of formerly incarcerated participants, all agree that it can be done with a positive attitude, adequate support, and persistence. Some of them even utilized resources provided to them by the Department of Corrections in order to regain their footing in society.
Today, you may have realized that the needs of those re-entering society are not what you imagined, or maybe it is. Either way, be prepared to help your loved one through this ongoing journey to a happy, fulfilling life. More importantly, the life of a re-entry will never be the same as before, but it has the potential to be even better than before.