Reintegration is a Process, After 42 years in Prison

I’ve been working with a gentleman who served 42 years in prison. Every time I get the opportunity to exchange with him I feel inspired and grateful. He is so vibrant. He is mentally and physically sharp. For the most part he travels on foot, walking miles to and from his destinations, exploring the city and enjoying the scenery. He obtained his learner’s driver’s license two weeks ago, so today I

allowed him to get behind the wheel of my car and drive. He kept saying he wasn’t ready to drive yet, but my persistence paid off, and before I knew it he was behind the wheel looking like a professional driver. As he buckled his seat belt he said, “This is my first time behind the wheel of a car in over 40 years.” I replied, “Over the next few years you are going to experience a lot of firsts.” He just nodded in agreement. I was overjoyed as he drove himself back to the halfway house.

I know that deep inside he was nervous, but on the surface he was cool and collected. “You are driving extremely slow,” I told him at one point. “I know” he said. “I’m generally a fast driver, but I just want to get used to this thing before I push it.”

When we got on the highway he picked up speed. As soon as he realized things were moving a bit fast he slowed down and said, “Wow, I’m driving pretty fast. Without me even realizing it I got up to 50 miles an hour.” Then, he proceeded to drive cautiously, taking extra care to come to a complete stop at the stop signs and pedestrian walkways.

I was so proud. I remember thinking, ‘This driving experience is a lot like the reentry process… you must take it slow, be cautious. It’s a process, and if you don’t practice patience you will find yourself moving a bit too fast. You’ll get ahead of yourself, anxiety will kick in and you will find yourself on the verge of a breakdown before you realize what’s happening.’

My new friend was very pleased with himself after his first driving experience. He sent me a text that said, “Thank you for being my first, I really enjoyed it. I must admit I was really hesitant at first.” If you didn’t know any better you would think we had sex. I haven’t told him yet, but I am pleased to be able to assist him in any way that I can. I feel that if my experience can enable me to relate to him to some extent maybe I can help make his transition a little easier. Then, maybe my own trials were not totally in vain.

Inmates Fight Fires, Find New Skills for Life After Prison Video

Release from Prison: Shock or Growth?



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 

Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.