I am often asked what it takes to come back to society after prison and if it is possible. The answer is that it happens everyday and it is very tough. Prison is easy- Re-entry is hard. But, possible and wonderful if looked at as a task. Freedom should never be taken for granted.
There are three very famous, very different high profile cases going through re-entry right now. Casey Anthony, Amanda Knox and Lindsay Lohan. All served jail time and all have been released back to society with a new level of infamy. Anthony is the only one who has some probation to finish and who will have other conditions with her for a long time. But, the process of re-entry after any formal probation or incarceration is a difficult one.
People do well in prison and on probation because of the accountability. Once that accountability is lifted it is up to an individual to remember what they learned and how to translate that into free life. There are two components that make up a successful re-entry: FAMILY RELATIONSHIPS/COMMUNITY TIES and accountability. This is why visiting people inside prison and keeping in touch is so important. The fact is that over 95% of all people incarcerated in the U.S. will be released and most in less than less than 5 years. This means that we must do a better job to empower people and help them learn from their mistakes and pasts.
There are resources for those coming back to society but they are few and far between. Imagine you were coming back to a free society with little money, no job and a family to support? It is no wonder why so many people wind up in trouble again. This is compounded for high profile people who have definite targets on her back. Life will be difficult and everyday things can get in the way and even trip you up. My advice-be cautious and stick to some sort of routine that works with it’s own accountability. That could mean continued therapy, substance abuse programs and even something as simple as exercise and support groups.
I often coach people who are re-entering society and this are much more difficult than preparing people for prison. I often ask them to pretend that they are still on probation or in prison so that they have rules to FOLLOW. Freedom when you have lost it is even more enticing and of course sweeter. But, it is a task to learn how to experience it and appreciate it properly. As I say, change is possible but it always takes hard work.
Wendy Feldman is a criminal justice expert 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 Today, CBS Early Show to Fox News and Nancy Grace. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.