My son has been out of prison now for almost two years. Gee, time has passed quickly for me, but has it for him? I’d like to think so, but I know that is not true. Some of his days and nights, particularly in the beginning just after release, were long. He was not able to sleep, was afraid and anxious most of the time, had a hard time getting used to the outside and in general was up and down depending on the day.
In the first few weeks, it was like he was waiting for them to come and take him back. The only thing that made it easier was that he was across the country from his last incarceration in Florida. Now things are a lot better and I think most of the fear and anxiety are gone. He seems to be a lot more settled and knows he won’t be returning to prison.
According to a recent article in Prison Policy Initiative:
“Reentry is tumultuous and challenging to begin with, and the first two weeks after release are among the most difficult. Previous research has shown that, within those first two weeks, the risk of death from drug overdose, cardiovascular disease, homicide, and suicide is elevated. A 2007 study found that the risk of death in these first two weeks can be up to 12 times higher than that of the general population. Building on that study’s findings, this new North Carolina study finds that the experience of any solitary confinement more than doubles the risk of death for people recently released from prison.
The study identifies two additional factors correlated with a heightened risk of death after release: race and the amount(length and frequency) of solitary confinement. All incarcerated people of color are more likely to die within a year of release, and the experience of solitary confinement only amplifies this racial disparity.”
For families of those just released, please know it is not an easy time for your loved one, and as much as you think he or she should be ecstatic with being home, they may not be. Look for signs of depression, suicidal inclination, drug use or anxiety. Recognize it and help them get through it.