How Long Does it Take to Reintegrate After Incarceration?

I decided to sit and talk a while with one of my best friends. She served 11 years with me during the18 years I was incarcerated.

We were like sisters and are very privileged to have had the opportunity to preserve our friendship.

I asked her to share with me her thoughts about incarceration and reentry. She had a blank stare on her face; then, she began:

When I came home I thought I was going to get a job right away, regain custody of my children and rebuild my bond with them. I was sadly mistaken.

It took two months to get a job after being turned down on numerous occasions due to an inability to pass the background check.

 I already had custody of my youngest son who was conceived and delivered while I was incarcerated. I decided to take my son and relocate to Richmond, Virginia because I had a job opportunity there.

My new life there consisted of a job as an administrative assistant for a tax accounting firm. I met someone, fell in love and got pregnant.

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Come to find out my boss was stealing money. She got audited, her company got shut down, and I was out of a job immediately. The guy I fell in love turned out to be a jerk, and I came back home to Washington, DC.

I had my son with me and I was pregnant with my baby boy at this point. I still had to fight tooth and nail for my two oldest children who were living in New York with their grandparents.

I remember those long road trips back and forth to court in New York, crying my eyes out. I couldn’t believe I had to fight so hard for my own children.

Check out: Female Inmates Reunite with the Children photos

It took a year before I was granted full custody of my kids. At that point, I was able to obtain my own apartment and I had a temporary job at District of Columbia Auditing. The company wanted to hire me permanently, but after the extensive background check I was fired on the spot.

I ended up with a part-time job at Shopper’s Food Warehouse, while attempting to provide for three children. And, I was pregnant. I had to be placed on bed rest and was subsequently fired due to my high-risk pregnancy. 

Related: Getting a job and learning to hold onto one after leaving prison

It’s been 7 years now, and thankfully I have maintained custody of my children. I was recently hired with the District Government.

I am continuing to rebuild my bond with my children who initially were angry, bitter and hostile. When I first came home my children were not very receptive to me, and it was a struggle to get to know one another and maintain stability.

I asked my friend how long she thinks it takes to reintegrate and she replied, “I’m still reintegrating…. maybe ten years.”

Related: What to Do When You Are Pregnant and Going to Jail or Prison

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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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