What is prison and how do we find FREEDOM???

Everyday I work with a wide variety of clients. Sometimes I am preparing the defendant for prison, sometimes I work only with their families, prepare people for court, prepare alternatives such as community service and rehab. Always I am in crisis management mode. But recently I have noticed a sharp increase in the number of people who have not only addictions but also mental health issues. Often these are not genetic issue but problems that have developed due to abuse, stress and trauma.

So, I ask the question- what is PRISON? Many people I met while in prison myself were not only growing and learning from their experience there, but also had developed a lightness about their circumstance and re-entry. Yet, many people recently seem to be in a very dark place. Maybe this is timing, maybe this is based on the fact that they have had other chances and failed and maybe the real issue is that I am finding it necessary to have most of my clients seek serious therapy now and not just AA and other rehab options.

Thus, many people are in prisons of their own making and just do not know how to find freedom. Prison is a relative term now to me. I learned a lot from prison. Just as money can’t buy you class, escaping jail time cannot and will not buy you FREEDOM.

All of the recent repeat offenders suggest just this. We can’t expect that AA and rehab is going to turn a person’s life around. They must do the work and get to the heart of the matter. Celebrities are always in the news for repeat DUI arrests and even other crimes including shoplifting and other cries for attention. This is not a coincidence. This is a cry for help, attention and a true lack of coping skills.

One culprit may be the lack of personal connection many feel in this age of social media. It certainly adds to the stress level of many and the isolation of many more. Add those together and we have loneliness and a type of self imposed prison.

Where we find Freedom is an extension of what is prison. The answer to both is within. There is no doubt that 30 days in jail changes nothing but long term work and treatment does. So does community service and being of service to others. As I often say, Community Service should be mandatory for anybody finding themselves in a courtroom. This may indeed be the key to the path to FREEDOM.

Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert, insider and family legal coach. She is available for private consultation on how to prepare for a successful incarceration, probation and re-entry. She is also available for media commentary and has appeared on shows from The Today Show, The CBS Early Show, E! News, People.com, Fox News, NBC News, CNN, NPR and Nancy Grace. She is a weekly featured guest on the syndicated America Now radio program. She may be reached at wendy@wendyfeldman.com

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2 Comments

February 27, 2013 · 10:14 PM

2 responses to “What is prison and how do we find FREEDOM???

  1. Sandy Rawlinson

    Thank you Wendy for making the point that mental illness is not exclusive to genetics, but that it can, and often does, evolve from neglect, abuse and trauma. I’m also happy that you brought attention to the downside of social media and the isolation it can cause. I understand the attraction to it, but the destruction it can cause is far worse. Some people base their self worth on how many friends they have, or how many people acknowledge them. Then there is the issue of “cyber bullying” and the people that use social media to spread poison and traumatize the already “traumatized”. I often feel left out because I am a member of the minority that does not have a Facebook account. I am conscious that it’s not a good place for me and my own mental health. I prefer actually being with people and talking face to face. It is cathartic to spend time with people who have been through some of the same experiences. I would like to see more support groups formed for people with similar problems to promote mental “wellness”. I think they should be moderated, but the group should have social time, some good snacks, a relaxed atmosphere and a “knowing” that they are not alone. Thank you Wendy!

  2. So true Wendy! While I was in prison, I met many people who, when it came down to it, seemed at heart bewildered at just how their lives had gotten to that point. They had deep deep hurts that they tried to cover up with drugs, alcohol, attitude, “excitement,” sex, etc. They really needed help in addressing what set them off on this path: physical or mental abuse, poverty, poor self-image, a bad boyfriend, and more. Unfortunately, that kind of help is rare. Too bad, because THAT is what really solves the problem, makes the person a valuable member of society, helps their family, and KEEPS THEM OUT OF PRISON. And keeps them alive.

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