A guy I know, who I met and came to consider a friend while I was in TDC, got out a couple months before me. He is currently sitting in jail, on quite a few charges ranging from DUI to breaking and entering a habitation with a weapon and with intent to commit a felony – that is a bad one, for those who don’t know. He has been in jail for over a year now, and he was just sentenced this week, to go back to prison. The sentence is for 25 years and he will have to do at least half of that before he is eligible for parole. I am thinking it’s going to be a long while before he has an opportunity to be free again.
What went wrong? While we were in prison he and I worked out together almost daily, we shared books and discussed them, and talked a lot in general. He is very smart, and has discipline when it comes to things like working out or keeping out of trouble in prison. He is a talented artist and can play a guitar, and has some skills like working on cars and construction work. He had plans to stay out of trouble on the outside, I know that much. Why do smart guys get out of prison and go right back in that revolving door?
Well, first of all, don’t think for a minute that I don’t know it could easily be me. The rate of recidivism is very high for anyone who has been in prison. A lot of this is because we are just dumb asses overall, but it’s also because it’s very hard to get out of prison and start over without a good support system and some good luck as well.
The job market is slim for those with a felony record. A lot of jobs plain won’t consider you if you have a record, like any job delivering stuff to the public or going into folks homes. So a lot of jobs that might be a good fit for someone with few skills just looking for a chance won’t consider you. When I got out, I was really fit, clean cut looking, and ready to work. And I knocked on quite a few doors. Here are some of the types of jobs I was not eligible for because I had a record: carpet cleaning, plumber’s helper, electrician’s helper, mover, motel maintenance, landscaper, apartment maintenance, pest control… that isn’t to say there aren’t some pest control companies or landscape jobs that might have considered me, but plenty of companies do not allow candidates that have a felony record.
There are other issues like where are you going to live? Sometimes, a person has burnt bridges with family or doesn’t even really have family. Finding a place to live that you can afford and that isn’t depressing as hell can be tricky. Most apartment complexes have a rule that you cannot live in them if you have any sort of criminal record.
Someone released from prison has to figure out how they are going to deal with that old group of friends or dysfunctional mate or family that are still right there waiting when you come home. You can feel really strong and committed to staying clean and out of trouble while you are sitting in your bunk in prison. But when you get home, things are way different. Any number of things can trigger you to think drinking, or drugging or worse are a good idea. It’s incredibly hard to walk away from those old friendships, and easy to tell yourself you can handle it. It’s also much harder than you think it will be to find your place in the world after a stint in prison. Let’s face it, having a record can make people you meet judge you.
Bottom line, I am sort of sad for this guy, and also shake my head some that he let it come to this. I can’t say I know any better what he should have done, but he had plans to get a fresh start. He knew the city he was from wasn’t smart for him to go back to. But instead, he got home and he contacted his old buddies, and his old girlfriends, and stepped right back into a life he should have avoided at all costs.
While he was in prison he wrote letters to his dad, and they communicated in a way they hadn’t for years. His dad lived in another state and he had plans to get out and go over his way, reconnect and have a fresh start. But he didn’t do that, and with a 25 year sentence on him now, it’s doubtful he will ever get to see him in person again. I guess they can start writing letters again.
It’s a damn shame, what people do to themselves. I pray I keep doing alright myself. I know my wife and son help me a lot, I feel such a strong love for them and I want so much to be here for them, it does make me think twice when stupid thoughts pop in my head. I don’t dwell on things much though, I just try to live in the moment, and enjoy this great life every minute, and keep putting one foot in front of the other. Peace out y’all. Hope you are feeling free today, count your blessings.