Life after prison: Helping your loved one adjust when they get home

Photo credit: Castleski / Shutterstock.com

Prison B.R.E.A.K. is an acronym for Building Relationships Empowerment and Knowledge

The most thought of and spoken about moment while someone is in prison is their release date. For the inmates who are blessed with a release date, it can either feel like time is slowly approaching or for those who stay active and involved, the sentence can speed by. However one chooses to spend their time in prison will be put to the test once that Individual is released from behind bars. Even though being released from prison or having a loved one set to come home is exciting; it is crucial to prepare so that the transition is stress-free and beneficial for all that are involved.

I have gone to prison on more than one occasion. Each time I came home was different and I think of myself as blessed. I was often able to get back on my feet quickly from experience, programs and being surrounded by people who cared about me. Having the right support, asking questions and understanding all of the options available for your situation helps you return to society with much-needed confidence.

Coming home from prison is not always like the movies. Sometimes the door doesn’t just swing open to freedom. When I was released from prison I had to spend 6 months in a halfway house. Of course, I was excited to be from behind bars and closer to home, but I was confronted with new obstacles I had to overcome. Personal time was pretty much nonexistent, curfews were strict and the freedom I pictured was nothing like what I was experiencing. Luckily, my frustration turned to motivation. I eventually learned discipline and patience throughout the process.

Photo Credit: Castleski / Shutterstock.com

I am very thankful for the programs that were set in place before and while I was in the halfway house. Before I was released I completed a prerelease course. In this course inmates are taught how to fill out job applications, job interview skills and are given vouchers to shop for presentable clothes. Amongst those points, we were also helped with obtaining our driver license and social security numbers.

Once I made it to the halfway house I was able to apply the skills I learned about applications and interviews to find a job. Those same programs that are put in place to prepare you team up with different employers to help you get a job despite your past. One of the most frustrating things about coming home and wanting to start fresh is being rejected because of your past. I have seen so many people resort back to what got them in prison because they felt there were no other options.

Having a job and paying 25 percent of my net income for room and board at the halfway house eased me back into feeling like a citizen again. We were even given bus tickets to get back and forth to work if needed. Even though most days were just about working and sleeping, I was happy to have a purpose and a life outside of prison. By the time my six months was up I had my own money, secured a place and I was ready for true freedom.

It is easy to feel like you have just been thrown back into a world that is so unfamiliar when you come home. Many think that the anger and frustration will end with the release date. The truth is the lesson continues; just in a different setting. Be open-minded to the opportunities and be great. Inspire others by being proof that there are options when inmates come home.  Granted the system is not always pretty, but often people are so blinded by all the negatives, they miss the important things put in place to help them.

Convicts: Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. No matter how long your sentence is, when you come home you will feel like you’ve been gone forever. Stay in the loop of current events and stay in the know with your loved ones. When you are released don’t be afraid to ask for help and for aid. Take advantage of the different programs available for advancement. Do not become discouraged if things don’t happen as planned as soon as you get home. Some things take time. Remember that planning and figuring out your next steps is healthy and necessary.

Loved Ones: It never hurts to do a little research. Find out as much as you can about the process that your loved one has to go through before coming home. Find fun and innovative ways to help your family member stay knowledgeable about what’s happening on the outside. Help with whatever task you can handle before they get home, that’s not of too much stress or inconvenience. Finishing those final details make a world of a difference and they will appreciate you for it.

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Dave Bishop
Dave Bishop

President/KITE INC.

Dave Bishop is the founder of the nonprofit organization, K.I.T.E. Inc., Konnecting the Incarcerated Through Excellence. The mission of the organization is to provide mentoring and support to children, younger than 18 years of age, who live in urban, under represented areas, and have at least one incarcerated parent. K.I.T.E. facilitates programs dedicated to providing financial assistance, emotional and crisis counseling, and educational and life skills training.