Robert H. Marshall
There are many challenges that come with being incarcerated and on parole. It can be difficult to find a job, you may not have the right clothes for interviews, and if you don’t have money saved up before incarceration it will be hard to get back on your feet financially after release. This is why I am writing this blog post about how men can rebuild their lives after incarceration.
Have you ever asked why a good majority of men return to prison? Because for many It’s easier to manage life in prison than outside of it because prison, violence and the streets is all they know. Life behind bars is predictable, regimented and at least the bare necessities like a bed, food, and water are provided. Life outside of prison is unpredictable, frightening, and for some be dangerous. Men who are coming home face the unknown! Will they run into enemies? Will they have a place to stay? or food to eat? All real issues that often end up putting good men in bad situations. For many brothers who can’t get their footing or rebuild their life after incarceration often go back to the same place that they came from.
Unfortunately, for many men incarceration is not a deterrent but rather it’s an affirmation and validation of what society believes them to be. In other words, if you’ve been labeled as someone who cannot produce or contribute positively in society then being incarcerated just confirms your label. Society labels are very powerful because they shape how individuals see themselves. Men feel like there really isn’t any hope left when people constantly tell them they will never change or get better only worse so inevitably some return to prison thinking this time things will be different with little success…
Rebuilding one’s life takes more than getting out of jail – it also means dealing with you and facing your biggest fears upon returning home. After several interviews here are a list of 8 things that have repeatedly come up in conversation that I want to offer to you.
1. Get Spiritually grounded.
Regardless of what you believe you will need something or someone to ground, inspire, and provide hope when times get rough and hard. This is foundational because the journey will be long and for many the only thing that kept them going was their ability to believe and have faith in something or someone bigger than themselves.
2. Locate Resources In Your Community
Believe it or not many cities, non-profit, religious and community organizations realize the challenge that many people trying to re-enter society have to go through just trying to survive. Locating resources like soup kitchens, churches, mosque, or community organizations can give you or at-least point you in the right direction to getting the support and resources you need like housing, food, and clothing and sometimes vouchers to navigate public transportation. I’m not saying this is always easy but if you are determined I believe something will always come through.
3. Join a Support Group
Having support and community that understand what you’ve been through and what you’re going through can be the difference between staying free and getting locked back up. Support groups provide a safe place for you to vent and process all of the emotions like fear, anger, rage, depression, and disappointment when you feel like giving up.
4. Secure Employment
Here is an amazing Handbook that was written by the The Prison Fellowship Organization that list how and the type of jobs to look for after being released from incarceration. https://www.doc.state.nc.us/Publications/DOL.Exoffender.Handbook.pdf
- Here are a few other tips: Make a “To-Do” list and outline your daily activities.
- Apply for jobs early in the day.
- Call employers to find out the best time to apply in person.
- Keep track of employers you talk to, including dates, names, and company notes.
- Be prepared with resumes, pens, notebook, maps, and job information.
- Follow up on leads immediately. DO NOT WAIT!
- Network and let everyone know you are job searching.
- Set up appropriate job alerts through internet job boards such as Indeed, Monster, ZipRecruiter, and CareerBuilder.
5. Learn What’s Changed
Jail can be a traumatic experience. Recidivism rates show those who’ve been incarcerated often have difficulty re-adjusting to life outside the prison walls, and this is even more of an issue if they get out and technology has progressed during their incarceration (like in the case of public transportation or phone features).
Cash is a little rare these days, as credit cards and debit cards have taken over.
There are a few ways to navigate this. First, don’t underestimate the value of the people who have experienced what you are now walking through. They understand how confused you feel and can help navigate some of your initial struggles.
Second, if you have a positive relationship with your family, ask them to listen to what changes you’ve gone through and help make sense of them.
6. Locate Housing
In the meantime, you need to find stable housing. That said, it might be difficult. First, as previously noted – society is radically different from the world you knew before being incarcerated. You may not know where to even start looking for a place to live because of this major cultural shift. Second, there’s an obvious problem: checking one’s criminal background will prevent many properties from accepting them as tenants.
Men re-entering society may have trouble finding housing. Fortunately, there are resources for recently released people from prison available but you must know where to look. First, if your prison offers any resource on transitional housing for recently-released inmates, check into your options with that front. Your housemates know what you are going through and can help find your footing leading to a smoother transition.
There are also resources available through local housing authorities (HUD), which often provide low income/free housing to people who qualify (and yes, you can qualify, depending on what type of crime you went to prison for).
7. Establish a Routine
One of the most important things to do after release from prison is establishing a routine. The daily structure that so often provided an anchor during incarceration can make it easier for those who have been incarcerated to re-enter society successfully.
It can be an exhilarating thing, but it is also a deeply stressful experience. Some have forgotten to eat because they’re accustomed to meal times being called out for them; other people become anxious about the sheer amount of free time entrusted to them.
When you’re fresh out of prison, a daily routine will help calm this anxiety. Your routine doesn’t need to be anything grand. Start by establishing meal times. If you need to rely on the times you ate meals in prison, that perfectly alright.
Try starting small. What time do you wake up? What are some tasks you can do in your day before looking for work or doing other errands?
When you first get out of jail or prison, don’t be afraid to turn to the people in your most immediate environment for help. For example, if you live in shared housing with housemates, they can perhaps provide information on where to find a temporary job and how train for it. Likewise, family members may offer assistance when it comes time to take care of children and such.
8. Stay Away From Negative People, Places & Environments
When released from prison, it is important to stay away from negative influences immediately. And this includes both people as well as environments.
Steer clear of the old circles that resulted in going to prison in the first place. Unlike other challenges, this one won’t fade away even if you move out of your bad environment and into a better neighborhood.
Relationships are difficult. Outside of the obvious breakup, it can be tough to know when to keep a relationship going for your own well-being and when to admit that you’re in an unhealthy one. You have to see all relationships in black and white either people are helping you progress forward into your purpose and destiny or they are pulling you back into the hellish pit you just fought your way out of.
If you are just returning home, stay independent and remember your will to succeed is your greatest resource. Actively work on building yourself. This may mean getting back in school, reading, exercising and staying positive about your own situation. I can’t say this enough, KEEP YOUR DREAMS ALIVE!
Your worst enemy is going to be you. Be humble. And give yourself and the people you love time. You have changed and so have they. Family members may continue to hang your past over your head but remember that’s who you were not who you are today. You get to choose who you are going to be today despite your past. This is why you will need to stay away from people who create negativity. I’m not saying you should avoid everyone who is critical; but rather that life after being incarcerated can be a difficult adjustment and you want to find yourself around people who will believe in you when you don’t or can’t.
It’s important to remember that you can rebuild your life after incarceration. The process of rebuilding may be different for everyone, but there are a few things that will help you get started on the right foot.
You need to believe in yourself and have faith in what is possible for you. Find people who support you and connect with them through community organizations or social media groups designed specifically for those coming out of prison so they know how others feel when they come home. Here are a few resources that can help guide you on your journey:
Christopher Bolder: https://www.christopherbolder.com/
Lester Young: www.path2redemption.org
Aaron Smith & Escaping The Odds: www.escapingtheodds.com/