1. Goals: Upon release, an ex-con is going to feel one-hundred percent charged, invigorated, and rejuvenated, ready to get on with his life. It’s almost like “a natural high.” Unfortunately, that charge, that feeling, has an expiration date. When his newfound freedom becomes normal, when he has adjusted to it, when he realizes that this freedom is now a part of his everyday reality, that’s when the feeling of being “one-hundred percent charged” begins to dissipate. That is precisely when he is most likely to revisit old unproductive habits. Since the shelf life of this invigorated feeling can vary depending on the individual, it is of the utmost importance that he “hits the ground running.” Having a set of goals, ones that take him to places and levels he’s never been, has a way of extending that exhilaration, that charge. For me, that goal was to enroll in and start college. I was released on June 1 and my goal was to begin college as soon as possible, the fall semester, which would begin at the end of August. It kept me busy, focused, and excited for a couple of months.
2. Familiar People Who Support Him And Understand What He’s Going Through: I can’t tell you enough how great it felt to be picked up right outside those prison gates when I was released. It was my mother, sister, brother, niece, and one of my cousins. We drove for hours, chatting and joking, every now and again someone having trouble with my “accent.” We finally reached Orlando, my aunt’s house, and I was greeted by ten to fifteen family members. It was a ‘Welcome Home Party,’ but it was also a united showing of support. Their presence dispelled some fears I had. They weren’t fearful of being in the same room with me. They didn’t regard me suspiciously. They didn’t expect a psycho to walk through that door, on the contrary, even though I had just been released after a 9 year bid, my cousins seemed to expect that same kid they grew up with, my aunts and uncles seemed to expect that same kid they watched grow up. When I realized this, that moment, it was moving, and I was thankful for them. They showed me a safe place, where I wasn’t seen as the ex-con or criminal, I was a family member, like everyone else in the room, and no prison stint would change that. They made me feel comfortable. It made those other things (and people) that I knew I’d have to contend with seem less foreboding.
3. A New Environment: The recently released prisoner needs a place to live that is disconnected from old, negative influences. He knows he should distance himself from certain people and places, recognizes that they don’t have a place in his future, is fully aware that they possess an oppositional or adversarial element, principally where his goals are concerned, but the sight of these things brings a note of familiarity, a sense of comfortability, that, for most, is too strong to resist. Remember, he has spent a significant amount of time navigating unfamiliar and treacherous surroundings, and has learned to live and deal with a perpetual lack of comfort, so the moment anything even slightly comforting appears from his past he will naturally possess a desire to reunite with it. Don’t allow the possibility. Provide him a new environment and he is much more likely to survive, thrive, and beat that recidivism rate.