Helping A Repeat Offender Reintegrate and Break the Cycle of Recidivism

(When That Offender is Your Family Member)

My younger brother was released from prison last week. Since he was 13 years old he had been in and out of prison for minor violations until he committed a crime that was serious enough to land him in prison for 12 years.

He completed that term, came home, and after one year in society ended up back in prison. Now he is home again. As an older sister I feel compelled to help guide my brother. I want so much to help him successfully reintegrate back into the community.

I have first-hand experience and know what it takes to rehabilitate, turn from a criminal lifestyle, rebuild and become a law-abiding citizen.

It takes patience and a willingness to go through the process of assimilation. It takes drive and a determination to be a productive member of the community despite the obstacles you may face. It takes maturity, a sense of knowing how to communicate, and the ability to wait when a need or desire arises that you can’t fulfill.

Unfortunately for my family, and me right now my brother lacks what it takes to beat recidivism and successfully reintegrate back into the community. He is institutionalized. As much as he appears to want to be a part of society, he seems more content to be in prison.

Related: Is there such thing as Post-Incarceration Syndrome?

I was ambivalent when I learned that my brother made it to the halfway house. I love my little brother (he is a grown man, but I can’t stop referring to him as my little brother). My love for him drives me to attempt to support him with encouragement and resources.

I went to my mother’s house, packed some clothes for my brother, brought him some toiletries, and delivered those items to him at the halfway house along with some pocket change. It felt good to be able to see my brother in the flesh again, hug him and let him know that I am there for him.

The next day he called my mom, my siblings and me repeatedly. He was barking demands, requesting the impossible and having tantrums.

My brother wants a car instantly. He has decided that his most feasible employment opportunity is a delivery job. Prior to his new arrest and parole violation he was delivering for a local carryout. Determined to get his old job back, he is convinced that he must have a car immediately. He wants his vital documents right away from my older sister.

No one could reach my sister, and this set my brother off. He became verbally threatening. He started talking about giving up on society. He complained about how nobody cares about him. These comments hurt me deeply. During our last conversation I ended the call abruptly.

At this point I refuse to talk to my brother. The negativity and stress is too much to handle. I have to think about my wellbeing and myself.

For three days I have thought long and hard about how I can assist my brother. I have sought to come to terms with the guilt of not being an exemplary sister in the past. I pray that the creator will help me to help my brother without hurting myself.

For now I have decided to “Let go and Let God.” My brother is in his hands.

Video: Prison education and reentry program

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About Lashonia Etheridge-Bey

Lashonia Etheridge-Bey is a Public Speaker who can candidly and articulately speak to the consequences of youth violence, the effects of incarceration and the challenges of reentry into society. Read Lashonia's Full BIO Here 


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