It’s a noisy, busy world we live in, and for someone coming back into this world from prison, it can be overwhelming. I’m going to share my personal experience with my own son’s recent release.
He served over thirteen years in a federal prison, a lot of it in solitary. What I’ve learned since his release is that it’s not that easy to immediately fit back in. The amount of people, colors, and noise is almost too much at first. There’s a sense of confusion and fear from not knowing how to do things and how things work. After all, technology has changed by leaps and bounds and there’s no preparation by the prison system for release into a world changed and governed by technology.
My son walked out of prison last Monday with a cloth sack full of legal papers, a couple of books, and not much else. He was wearing sweats and worn shoes. He literally had nothing to begin a new life with. What does a person do if they have no support? I’ve written several blog articles regarding the lack of preparation by prisons for inmate’s release, so I won’t belabor that at this time.
We drove from the prison to a discount store to buy an outfit for him to travel in. Collared shirt, jeans and new shoes. From there we went to the Orlando airport. His face reflected his feelings. He looked around at the crowds, the lights, the massive amount of things and people and was almost speechless. We didn’t really have a choice, as we had to travel back home by air. When we got on the plane, the seats were narrow and the aisles were confining. All things we’re used to, but not him. At least he seemed to acclimate to his surroundings in the plane without too much trouble. A little nervous tapping of the feet, but that’s about all.
While on the plane, I spent time showing him how to use a smart phone. I mean from learning how to activate it to learning how to add contacts. All the while I’m thinking, why doesn’t the prison system teach them this? It would be easy to have classes for people being released to learn how to use new phones.
Since getting home, we’ve been extremely busy getting him settled. The main thing was to get him registered at the federal probation office because you have to report within 72 hours or face being arrested. Honestly, this was a good experience. They were kind, helpful and without judgement. He will be assigned a parole officer in the next day or so and will need to go back to receive his instructions.
I don’t have any fears regarding how he behaves or his following the rules. The only thing I’ve seen so far is his difficulty dealing with the rude people out here. They walk in front of you, brush you aside as they go to where they want, cut you off in traffic, bump into you without a word of excuse and on and on. Our world has become self-indulgent, and people have a lack of respect. Not so in prison. Respect is what you live by. If someone disrespects you and you don’t respond, it’s a sign of weakness. If you don’t put it down immediately you will be taken advantage of from that day on.
You can’t do that out here. You might get shot or run over or arrested. You have to let it go, and that’s hard for someone who’s lived by different rules for years. You have to just ignore it and realize that it’s not worth going back to prison for.
We have a long way to go, but with the help of Hope for Prisoners, a reentry program in Las Vegas and the help of it’s founder and CEO, Jon Ponder, he will have all the support and help he could ask for. I’m confident that he will succeed and find his way to a better life.