Work Hard and Play Hard After Prison

I’ve been home for less than three years and I’m blessed and grateful to say I have had a wide range of experiences during that time. There’s a popular saying these days, “Work hard, play hard.” I’ve been living that life.

I’m one year away from graduating from Trinity University with my Bachelor’s Degree in Human Relations. I’m deep into my career as the female reentry coordinator at The Mayor’s Office on Returning Citizen Affairs, and I’ve had countless opportunities to speak to issues that impact women in prison and women in reentry.

Next month I will be speaking to a group of wardens who are in charge of several female facilities. In October I will be speaking at the Maryland Correctional Institution for Women at their annual reentry conference.

My prayer is that my willingness to openly share my experiences will make a positive difference in mindset of those involved in the criminal justice system. It’s exciting.

Related: Should you speak publicly about incarceration and reentry?

I’ve been traveling as much as possible. I went to Virginia Beach with my family last summer, and this winter I had the pleasure of going to the Deep Creek Resort in Maryland with a group of friends. I have also traveled to Atlanta, Georgia and West Virginia.

Just two weeks ago I was blessed with the opportunity to go to the Bahamas. After being incarcerated for 18 years, confined to a cell for extended periods at a time, I was mesmerized by the vastness of the ocean. At moments I would stare at it so intensely I became dizzy. Oh, the sight of blue water.

In the Bahamas I was able to meet some natives and see the real city. It was an experience of a lifetime. Talk about broadening your horizons. Seeing people who have so little and possess such joy was striking. It reminded me of being incarcerated.

In prison you learn the true meaning of contentment. Imagine not being able to go to the grocery store to buy all of your favorite foods. Imagine not being able to call your loved ones on a whim. Imagine not being able to watch your favorite show or listen to your favorite music CD. Imagine being stuck in one place for years with the same people, unable to leave or receive visits. Stuck!!!

Imagine you are forced to find true contentment. When possessions can’t bring you happiness, you must find the inner source of joy. Things that won’t pass away are the things that bring real and permanent joy. Love, joy, peace, long suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control are the fruits of the spirit and the sources of true happiness. They are the spring from which real blessings flow.

It would be a blessing if every formerly incarcerated person could travel, see the world and realize that there is so much more to life than what meets the eye.This quote was meaningful for me:

“Travel is the biggest change agent of all time. It opens your mind and your eyes. If more people traveled, there wouldn’t be as much hatred in the world because you see that other people are innately human. It rids you of preconceived notions.” – Nancy Novogrod, Travel Editor

Video: Student film explores people’s feelings about incarceration and reentry



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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