today i had an interesting discussion about what it meant to be an ex-offender. the discussion came about from something that Michelle Alexander mentioned in her book The New Jim Crow. she made reference to the different ways that people find themselves back in prison. she mentions things such as being late for appointments to see parole officers, not being able to find employment in a timely manner, and other things that can lead one back to prison. she makes good points, but being incarcerated i have to say that all of this depends on the individual and how badly they want to stay out of prison.
one of the things that seems to get in the way of guys getting out and staying out is that they are not transparent with the people that are involved in the transition process. what do i mean by that? in order to gain the trust of someone you have to be trustworthy and in order to build the trust that is needed to have a healthy and working relationship it means that one has to be willing to be vulnerable. the recently released person has to know that the other people involved are going to be a part of his/her life for a determined amount of time and that it is in that persons best interest to develop trustworthy relationships with others.
i have seen so many guys go home from prison and i have heard many stories and excuses as to why they are back. but do you want to know what i have yet to hear?? that is the truth!! yes i hear a lot of excuses but never the truth. getting out and staying out is two parts and the sooner that people understand that the more successful they become.
although these are things that are true there are other issues that i think about when a person is released from prison. these are issues that i also believe play a big part in the high recidivism rate, and that is mental health issues that i don’t think are taken into consideration when dealing with ex offenders.
the memories of the actions that they have committed in the past is something that people have to live with every day as they try and readjust into society. i think that this is a issue that needs to be addressed at some point by the individual. the guilt and the suffering that they carry with them day in and day out, as they try to come to terms with the things that they have done in life, along with the pressures and the stress that come with going back into society, can have negative mental repercussions.
unfortunately there are not that many programs that deal with this issue of mental health for ex offenders. not dealing with these issues can be the fuse that leads one to commit often more violent crimes. as one talk about re-entry one has to wonder about the mental state of some of these people coming home.
i use myself as an example. i know that to some extent i may have some issues, in terms of the mental states that i have had to put myself in over the years. to be able to sit in a 8 by 12 room with the lights on 24 hours a day for a year straight, being let out that cell for 1 hour and not being able to go outside and get sunlight during that year takes some mental manipulation to get through. the worse part of that is having to go through that with out a time line of when this is going to end. to just have to sit there and wait. or to be shackled, belly chained and handcuffed, not being able to use the bathroom, defecate, eating cheese sandwiches for 8 days while being transported across country to another prison. or to be on a time table where an experiment similar to the experiment of Pavlov and his dog taking place everyday. where they ring a bell and you are expected to respond. to have to fight that and stay strong mentally takes a lot. if a person such as myself can say that yes i am messed up in that regard, to a certain degree, what about the person less mentally strong than i consider myself to be.
also there is a sense of hopelessness for some people that are getting out, as some of them think that they belong here in prison. this shame often leads to low self esteem, which lead to carelessness and reckless behavior. if the general opinion is that when one has been incarcerated, there is little hope for this person, and the reentering person constantly hears this, he/she begins to believe this. The reentering person begins to expect this when they are released. it is as if every one convicted of a crime has a life sentence because the collateral punishment never ends.
it is frightening to think that there are some people that think that they belong in prison and that they function better in here. what is worse and more frightening is that some don’t even want to break the cycle. as solutions are sought to fix this problem i hope that some one looks into the area of mental health. because there are more mental health patients here than criminals!!Related Post: My First Night in Lorton