Freedom! One would think that getting out of prison would be something inmates look forward to with joy and anticipation. Well, the anticipation part might be right, but it’s not always looked forward to with joy. Sure they’re happy to get out, but if they’ve been in for any amount of time, there are uncertainties and fears they may be facing.
Where will I live? How can I get a job with a record? What will my family think of me? Who will trust me? Will my spouse / girlfriend / boyfriend still be waiting for me? Will my children know who I am? Can I stay sober? Can I change my life? Will anyone be there to support me? Who will pick me up when I get out? Sometimes, there are no answers for these questions. They have to be worked out one day and one problem at a time. If they’re lucky, they will already have some of the answers. Someone will be there to pick them up and help them find a place to live and a job. But, some inmates have no one left to help them. They end up in a shelter or on the streets… lost and alone. That’s why Hope for Prisoners in Las Vegas and other organizations like them are out there to help. Hopefully the inmate’s case worker or parole officer has hooked them up with an organization that can provide the help they need.
Unfortunately, housing and jobs are the hardest problems to solve. Most rentals do not take anyone with a criminal record, and most employers will not hire anyone with a record. It’s a maze to be navigated. There are a few organizations that will hire ex-offenders. State agencies like Nevada Workforce or temp agencies may be able to find work for them. Some companies will hire if you tell them up front you have a record, but you’re a changed person. At Hope for Prisoners they help ex-offenders find jobs and have lots of contacts to work with.
Housing can be the hardest. There are halfway houses and sober living houses, but they can be difficult to get into. One solution may be to find a private person with a rental. They might take someone with a record if you tell them the truth. Of course family is the best answer, but that might not be an option if you have burned your bridges or there just isn’t room.
So, if you have a loved one coming out, give them all the support and love you can. Be patient. They have fears they may not be able to express to you. Understand that for some this is a brand new world of computers, smart phones, smart TV’s and a changed landscape from when they were last on the outside. They won’t know how to fill out an application on line or order from a fast food kiosk. They may not even know how to use a computer.
You may have fears too. Will they be able to keep from going back is probably the biggest one. You’ll need to have faith that they can function and stay out. Give them support and believe they can succeed and their chances of succeeding will be greater. Mostly, let them know you love and support them.
I’ll end here by saying my son gets out in less than a month, after over thirteen years in a federal prison, and both of us have all the fears and trepidation I’ve described above. We will be facing all the obstacles others have faced. However, I have faith he is a changed person and will be successful in living a life that will be happy and prison free. That’s the one thing we both pray for.
I’ll be keeping you posted on how he is doing. Keep your fingers crossed!