When I was preparing to be released from incarceration I decided to relocate. Rather than return to the District of Columbia where I was born and raised, I made plans to go to Richmond, Virginia to live with my daughter. There’s a saying, “If you want to get a good laugh tell God your plans.” My relocation was denied by the authorities.
I was devastated that I could not choose where to live. I was feeling insecure and uncertain about returning to D.C. as a changed person, knowing full well that in many ways the District had remained unchanged. I couldn’t imagine what it would feel like to walk around without a weapon, because prior to my incarceration I was so deeply immersed in crime and violence that I was constantly in fear for my life.
When I started my prison term I heard many inmates say that they were planning to relocate from the city where they were born and raised after their release. Usually those environments are downtrodden and crime-ridden and they leave people traumatized and desolate. Washington, D.C. is no different. When I used to hear people say they were relocating I thought, ‘Wherever you go you have to take yourself with you.’ Then, as I got closer to my release time, I felt the same anxiety and fear that those inmates felt.
Against my wishes, I came back to Washington, D.C., and the past three years have been intriguing to say the least. Gentrification and crime plague the city simultaneously. A lot has changed since the time I was sent to prison. Museums are now springing up in the roughest neighborhoods, and trolley Cars have even been installed. Yet, the violence, crime, and destruction in South East, D.C., where I was born and raised, remain prevalent amidst the new and unaffordable condominiums.
Further reading on the influences of where you live: Where we live matters to our health
Two weeks ago my brother was robbed while delivering for a local pizza place. He was recently released from prison after serving time on a parole violation. When I got the call that my brother had been robbed, I was so shook up that I could barely think straight. When I arrived to the scene of the crime the police were everywhere. That further distressed me because I haven’t necessarily had good interaction with the police in the past.
I was anxious, nervous, angry and sad. Someone robbed my little brother. What if they had killed him? Then, the police were questioning him in the neighborhood where he was robbed, probably while the robbers watched from afar. I convinced the police to allow my brother and me to leave the scene of the crime, and then I went home wishing I could just pack up and move. I was feeling violated and unsafe. My brother was near tears.
My Brother stayed up all night chain smoking and talking about the robbery. I felt overprotective and worried. That incident made me wonder, “How does a person change when they are living in an environment where people remain unchanged?”
The tough economic times have placed a burden on many inner city people. The unemployment and homelessness rates are high and the crime rates are skyrocketing. How does this impact people in the reentry process? I wonder.