When you are sent to prison after being convicted, you will be in a corrective setting for at least one year. Prisons house inmates who commit felonies, and these types of crimes can carry sentences ranging from one year to life in prison without the possibility of parole.
This means that when you are in prison, you are in a highly controlled environment for a long period of time. Prison is about strict routines and rules, and spending long periods of time in prison “institutionalizes” a person.
Depending on how long they are inside, prisoners may begin to lose basic life skills. If they do not have access to television or radio, their knowledge of contemporary life begins to fade.
While prisoners may see or hear life outside, isolation from the free world isolates them. By the time their release date arrives, prisoners may be so ill-prepared for the modern world that they need significant resources and support systems to be successful.
In addition to the controlled environment, prison inmates must live 24/7 in survival mode. You must always be careful who you interact with and use violence when necessary.
A prison is its own world, with its own economy, social hierarchy, and community. This unique environment has profound effects on a person’s physical and mental health, and dealing with the aftermath of the situation after release can be a daunting task.
All of this leads to the topic of my blog today: How to let go of the prison mentality after getting out of prison?
In this blog post, I will cover the following topics:
- What’s it like to be on parole?
- How you can help your prisoner adjust
- most prisoners can’t really let go
What’s it like to be on parole?
Many of those released did not complete their sentences. Instead, most prisoners are usually released after serving a percentage of their sentence and must serve the remainder of their sentence on parole, probation or supervised release.
While you are on parole, you must call your parole officer as soon as you walk out the prison gates and make an appointment to see them right away. If you do not follow all the rules of your parole, you risk being sent back to prison to serve your sentence.
For me, parole is like having a babysitter. Anytime I want to do anything, I have to report to my parole officer. I had to contact her regularly to share my finances, keep her updated on my housing and employment status, and undergo random drug testing.
I’m lucky though.
Because I have a college degree, professional connections, and an excellent family support system, I was able to get parole without issue. I was able to find a job quickly, had a good place to live, and I had transportation to make appointments with a parole officer anytime.
Unfortunately, when many inmates get out, they don’t have decent housing and support systems to help them get back on their feet. Many prison inmates are poorly educated, and adding felonies to their records makes it nearly impossible for them to find work.
I want to talk about what it’s like to be on parole because I want to make it clear that there are expectations when prisoners are released. They are expected to jump back into the world and acclimate immediately.
Prisoners are supposed to work, pay their bills, attend all necessary meetings or treatment, and have a decent place away from anyone with a criminal record. But doing it right after years in prison can be a huge challenge.
If a prisoner has a good parole officer, he/she will introduce them to resources to help them adjust to life in the free world.
How do you help prisoners adapt?
Prisoners can experience some serious culture shock after they get out, and it gets worse the longer they stay behind bars. I was locked up from 2013 to 2017, and the changes in social media, streaming platforms, and smartphones during that time were huge.
I felt like an idiot the first time I got my hands on a smartphone in four years.
You must help your prisoners adapt to their new normal by teaching them the basics of new technologies. One of the sweet things my sister did for me when I was released was to give me a phone that was already set up and working. That was a great gift and it helped me ease back into this world.
Mental health issues such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder can also develop after release from prison. Readjusting can be difficult, and finding a job and apartment with a criminal record can be frustrating.
When therapy is not an option, you can help your formerly incarcerated loved ones by talking and communicating with them on a regular basis.
In order to have the best chance of success after release, prisoners are encouraged to surround themselves with good people and keep away from bad influences. I’ve never really had any bad influences in my life, so I’ve worked to keep myself out of depression by setting goals for myself.
It took me a few years, but I was finally able to largely put the idea of prison behind me and move on to the next part of my life. Finding my place and being able to take care of myself financially was a big part of my escape from my prison years.
Most prisoners really can’t let go
I’ve covered several ways inmates can move on and let go once they’re out, but I haven’t really addressed the issue of letting go of the prison “mindset”.
The truth is, you don’t really let go. Going to prison changes a person completely. If you spend a lot of time in it, your time there becomes part of who you are.
The prison jargon hasn’t quite left my vocabulary, I can still make my favorite ramen in the microwave, and I’m still chasing after my original goal sitting on my bunk in Room 207C in Building 4.
I am still very aware of my surroundings and I respect people and treat them the way they deserve. Believe it or not, this is pretty much the same as the prisoner code or prison “mindset”.
How would you describe the prison mentality? Let us know in the comments below.