Overcoming Society Reentry Challenges After Life Behind Bars

by | Sep 13, 2022 | Featured Article, life, prison, Social Issues | 0 comments


Every prisoner looks forward to the day they would be free from prison. Freedom is enticing but not without its uneasiness. And that uneasiness is brought by the thought of what awaits prisoners once they get out of jail.

Prisoners face a lot of challenges after they’re released from jail. Often the psychological stress is so traumatic that the question of “is life better behind bars” comes to play. But it’s not only the mental and emotional barriers these ex-prisoners must face once they come out those steel gates and breathe in the air of freedom. There’s also the question of stability regarding finances and housing. Will they still have a house waiting for them? Will jobs be waiting for them, or are employers waiting to take in ex-convicts? The stigma for ex-convicts is so overwhelming that it seems to be this unbreakable invisible barrier that society has long taken for granted and remains an unsolved societal issue.  

Before prisoners even came out behind bars, stigma had already been building up against them, against their free will. Rosser McDonald’s book about the prison system and its highlighted realities accurately depict what life is all about for prisoners. Real Prison, Real Freedom gives an accurate account of the story of the real-life convict, notorious Texas inmate Rickie Smith, during the period of a significant change that took place within the Department of Corrections.

Rickie Smith exemplifies a convict stigmatized by a system. Prison warden Dr. Keith Price puts it accurately in the book: “People that wind up in prison, inmates, generally are society’s rejects.” Nevertheless, Smith ended up a changed man, against all odds. The chances and opportunities given to Rickie Smith by Warden Price, and a fateful encounter with Bob and Nelda Norris, directors of Texas Baptist-sponsored ministry Huntsville Hospitality House, led to what is later dubbed as a radical transformation of an inmate.  

How to Break Barriers and Enter Back Into Society

Is it possible for two different worlds to unite and integrate? The question is a loaded one that comes with many “it depends” scenario attached to it. It depends upon the society and its leaders. It depends upon the ex-prisoners themselves how far they will persevere down that road of acceptance. It depends on what opportunities are up for grabs that ex-prisoners can use to maximize their reentry into society.

On and on it goes.

Despite the uncertainties, the answer is still yes. It is very much possible for two different worlds to meet halfway and allow the other to come into their world.

Here are a few tips to help during the reintegration process after serving some time.

Identify Immediate Needs

Before even stepping out of the prison gates, the inmate should already have in mind what are their immediate and essential needs. Do they have a place to stay, a house to sleep in that’s safe and comfortable? Do they have any source of income or any means of financial support or aid? Do they have their basic needs, such as clothing and personal care items? Is their identification still intact through any forms of registrations, memberships, or identification cards? Do they have access to overall medical care? What are the emotional and spiritual support available for them? Do they need treatment and rehabilitation?

These questions must be asked and prepared for, anticipating that “big day.” Or else, how will they survive life after prison?

Creating and Renewing Relationships

It’s good advice to keep in touch with family and friends before getting out of prison. Maintaining constant communication can help an inmate stay in touch with the world outside, what’s happening, and all other realities that are not visible to the prison world. Renew old relationships as necessary, and always create new ones along the way. Many benefits come from forming new connections, and one of those benefits is networking. Networking can help ex-prisoners look for future employment through referrals. Renewing old contacts can help make society’s acceptance go more smoothly.

Find Support Groups

For ex-prisoners, support in any form is an essential need. Aside from financial support, mental and emotional support poses the most significant and urgent requirement for reintegration. Support could come from the community, rehabilitation, or peer groups. Or it could support that’s coming from family and friends. The key aim of having support is to make an ex-prisoner that they’re not isolated and that there are not being intentionally isolated and singled out. They’re not alone in this journey, and that help is available anytime they need them.

Do Community Work

One of the fastest ways to reintegrate into a community is to serve and give back through voluntary work. Community work will provide the citizens an impression of an ex-convict’s willingness to build a positive relationship with them. And in return, they’ll find that people will open up to them more, and aid will come in slowly but surely.

Rosser McDonald’s Real Prison, Real Freedom, provides a striking impact and an eye-opener that society should not take for granted. The prisoners, whether behind or out of imprisonment, are still human beings and should be given the dignity and integrity they deserve.

Reentering society for ex-prisoners can be daunting but is not an impossible task. Just like Rickie Smith, with the proper support and available and accessible opportunities, what seemed to be a formidable task can be overcome. 

Ready to be inspired? Grab a copy of Real Prison, Real Freedom on Amazon, or visit the author’s website at www.rossermcdonald.com.


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