Life After Prison: Tips for a Smooth Re-Entry Process

Life After Prison: Tips for a Smooth Re-Entry Process

Life after prison can be beautiful. Five million formerly incarcerated people live in the United States. They come from all backgrounds, and many of them live full and productive lives. 

Yet life after prison can have plenty of difficulties. If your loved one is about to be released from jail, you need to help them make a smooth transition. 

What can you do before they leave prison to help them? What structure should you provide for them at home? How can you help them develop social skills? 

Answer these questions and you can help your loved one gain independence and self-confidence. Here is your quick guide. 

Communicate With Your Loved One 

Talking with your loved one while they are in prison is a good way to create a transition. Perform an inmate lookup with a DOC inmate locator service. Find your loved one's contact information and write them a letter. 

Try to keep things as normal as possible. Update them on life outside of prison and ask them how things are going. 

If you can visit them in person, you should. You can also make phone calls or send them emails. 

Talk to them about their release as you are leading up to it. Come up with ways you can celebrate their release and ease them into life beyond prison. They may have suggestions about what they want to do and who they want to see. 

Try to use terminology that respects them. Refer to them by their name and ask them how their friends are doing. Try not to refer to the people in jail as "prisoners," as this term can be too sweeping. 

Find Housing and Employment Solutions 

You should provide a structure for your loved one to thrive in. Many people who leave jail struggle with housing.

If you have room in your house, you can let them stay with you. You may be able to apply for housing on their behalf, or they can file for housing while they are in jail. 

You should also help them find a job. Employment options for recently incarcerated people are slim.

But even an entry-level job will help them cover their expenses and develop skills. Give them suggestions on jobs they can find. 

You should help them become productive. But you should allow them to become independent. Your loved one should practice making their own decisions and living a productive life. 

Some incarcerated people want to study law or engage in prison reform. Others want to pursue a different career path. Be respectful of whatever your loved one wants to do and help them figure out the resources they need to succeed. 

Deal With Culture Shock 

Many people who were in prison for decades or while they were children struggle with culture shock. Some people come out of prison unaware of modern technology. Others don't know about new slang and celebrities who have come to recent prominence. 

You can instruct your loved one about recent cultural developments. Feel free to keep newspapers about subjects they may be interested in. Give them instructions on how they can use electronics. 

Some people become used to walking while chained or handcuffed. Others get used to sleeping on hard beds with minimal patting. You may need to help your loved one walk normally, and you can refer them to a physical therapist. 

Help Them Socialize 

Socialization in jail is difficult. Some prisoners train themselves not to make eye contact or engage in small talk. A 2017 study described this process as "prisonization," and it can impact someone's social skills once they leave jail.

In conversations with your loved one, treat them with respect. Make eye contact with them and speak to them in a gentle voice. 

They may look around, or they may seem jumpy. This may be due to culture shock or a habit they developed while they were in prison. Be patient with them and express your support. 

Do not rush socialization. Engage them socially in a few small activities like visits to the store or dinners with friends. As time passes, your loved one can plan social engagements on their own. 

Family members and former friends may not want to speak to your loved one. They may have moved away and are difficult to contact. Do not force interactions between these people and your loved one, though you can communicate with them during emergencies. 

Many people treat formerly incarcerated people with disrespect. Do not engage with these people and draw them away from your loved one. 

Monitor Mental Health

Readjusting to daily life can be extremely difficult. Some people may develop depression, while others struggle with anxiety and self-esteem issues. 

Help your loved one set small goals for them to achieve every day. It may be something like applying for one job or meeting a new person. They should get a reward when they meet that goal. 

Train your loved one to affirm themselves. Tell them to give themselves compliments after something bad happens. 

When in doubt, talk to a mental health professional about what to do. You should recommend your loved one to a therapist if they have signs of a serious condition like PTSD. 

Create a Healthy Life After Prison 

Life after prison is difficult yet rewarding. Remaining in touch with your loved one while they are in prison can help. Develop a plan with them so they can take charge of their life. 

Help them find housing and a job. Update them on the latest developments so they do not have extreme culture shock. 

Ease them into socialization through small gatherings and family events. Keep an eye on their mental health and talk to a therapist when needed. 

Reach out to your loved one. Prison Exchange helps you communicate with incarcerated people. Contact us today.