1. Make yourself aware of the statistics. About 68% of people released from prison are back within 3 years, 77% are re-incarcerated within 5 years. That’s crazy, I know, but that’s what the Prison Industrial Complex is banking on, your recidivism, your eventual (and highly likely) return to prison. There is money to be made off your estrangement from loved ones. Ruining your life is big business. People are becoming rich from it. Private correctional facilities generated 4.8 billion dollars in 2014. Did you think you were tossed in prison to be punished or rehabilitated? No, you were tossed in prison so someone could purchase a new vacation home and put his kids through college. You need to understand and memorize these facts and figures -they’re accurate- and while they can be discouraging, they are also eye-opening. They help you to see the lay of the land (and the way of the land) more clearly. It’s like the more you familiarize yourself with a city, the less likely you are to get lost. So, the more you familiarize yourself with the unfortunate truths and realities of the Prison Industrial Complex, the easier it is to avoid going back.
2. Never forget. I know it’s easy to think you’ll never forget being incarcerated, but you will, in due time. After all, prison isn’t something you want to remember. It’s not like those fond memories of that family trip or the nostalgic recollections of summers as a kid, no, these are horrific “adult” experiences. But, like all memories, the details fade with time and facts become blurry. You’ll be surprised at how quickly and readily you’ll part with the memories. You’ll still reminisce about that family trip and those youthful summers, and you’ll recall that time you built a gigantic sandcastle on the beach, but those prison days, they’ll recede so far you couldn’t see them with binoculars. But don’t allow that to happen! Remember those days. Remember the injustice of it all. Remember how painful it was to be away from your family. I’m not suggesting you hold fast to any bitterness or hatred, but I am suggesting you hold tight to the images and feelings of the time. It’s one of the things that’ll keep you focused on your future and appreciative of your freedom.
3. Keep busy. Staying active, moving steadily from one step to the next, is the only way you’re going to taste that success you so often dreamt of while inside. It’s also one way of making sure that those old negative influences have a hard time catching up with you. Keeping busy also decreases the chances that you’ll latch on to old ways of thinking. You’ll be so focused on creating a new life that you won’t have time to entertain any negative parts of the old one. You know that saying, “An idle mind is the devils workshop.”
4. Be realistic. One way to halt momentum and kill your ideas is by having unrealistic expectations. Okay, you got out of prison and you want to move quickly, get things done at light speed, I understand. I was there. You want to make up for lost time so you have these grandiose ideas and desires. And that’s fine. That’s reasonable. However, it is unreasonable to have a lofty destination without having planned out the route. You wouldn’t say, “I’m going to vacation in Paris” and then just expect to be teleported there. No, there are things you have to do first, steps you must take in order to get there. You have to approach those grandiose desires, those goals, in the same way. It would be completely illogical and unreasonable for you to expect to be transported from ‘recently released convict’ to ‘glowing success story’ through no effort of your own. You must take the necessary steps to make your goals a reality. And here’s another bit of realism that you’re going to have to accept: Things will be 100X more difficult for you than for most other people. That means you’re going to have to work 100X harder than most people to achieve your goals and dreams. And that’s not fair, but it’s real. Nobody is trying to give an ex-con a break, so, at times, you’re going to have to think outside the box. You’re going to have to get creative and make your path a unique one. But don’t worry, pushing the boundaries, treading beyond the lines, being revolutionary, is something that comes natural to you.