No matter what someone went to prison for, they are still a human being in the end. The point of the judicial system is to make a person pay with their time for a crime they have committed, whilst rehabilitating them to one day re-enter the outside world. So, when an ex-convict leaves prison, they should, in theory, be able to slot back into normal life.
However, unfortunately, that is often not the case for a person after leaving prison. Often it is quite hard to find a way to slip back into society and feel accepted and normal once again. This is why many people return to crime or deliberately return to prison. Below are some of the facts you should know about a convict’s life after they leave prison.
Immediate Culture Shock
After leaving prison, there are many challenges ahead. One of these is the immediate culture shock and change in lifestyle that they will feel from the moment they step out of those prison doors. Picture yourself leaving an extremely regimented way of life after 5, 10, or even 20 years to find a world that you do not recognize at all waiting for you on the outside. Being away from the world only to return and find it feeling completely different is a scary thing to experience.
On top of this, a convict’s life is in many ways safe and secure. You have a very normal routine of mealtimes, sleep time, exercise time, etc. Leaving prison and having free will to spend your time however you wish can actually be a real shock to a person. For many years they have felt safe in their routine, knowing exactly what’s coming next, only to suddenly find themselves unaware of what or who is around them at any given time.
Distanced From Old Friends
To compound this, many of the people a convict left behind when they entered prison may also have changed, moved on, or simply feel distanced. Of course, this will be different for everyone. Some prisoners may find themselves returning to a loving family home, while others may leave their lockup to find that barely anyone they recognize is still in their local area. It’s only natural for people’s lives to change and develop over the years, meaning often they will be in an extremely different place to how a prisoner left them many years before. This makes life feel alienated and lonely.
Housing Can Be A Struggle
Unfortunately, landlords tend to view ex-cons negatively. They often say or think things along the lines of “Why would I hire an ex-con, he/she’ll just trash the place and won’t be trustworthy!” This is yet another one of the hurdles that a felon will face after leaving prison. It is, of course, hard to judge people on a case-by-case basis, but that is what a landlord has to do every time they choose a tenant. Whether they have been to prison or not, they may still not be trustworthy or clean or tidy. Unfortunately, as landlords are often privately run, it is hard to make a difference here. However, there are plenty of social housing initiatives being developed today in the hope to change this for felons.
It’s Hard To Find Work Too
Sadly, the same stigma can be attached to employers and business owners. Many employers view hiring ex-convicts as a risky choice, even if they have spent their time in prison learning new skills or taking classes in a new subject. Unfortunately, there is still a stigma attached to ex-prisoners. Luckily, there are more and more schemes aimed at helping ex-felons to work through charities and government initiatives, making it slowly become easier for them to find work overtime.
People Treat Ex-Cons Differently
As you have seen, employers, landlords, and even old friends can treat ex-cons differently to others. This is spread throughout wider society. As many people feel so detached from prison or prisoners, they can end up treating ex-convicts very differently. People are quick to judge someone who has been to prison, before even knowing their story. In reality, the hope is that most convicts who are judged to be fit to leave prison are therefore ready to integrate back into society, meaning they should be given a second chance. Often it does not feel like this to the ex-prisoners, leaving them feeling ostracized and separate from the rest of “normal” society.
As you can see, life after prison can be a challenge. Personal relationships may change, while it can feel like a convict will always be viewed differently than other members of society. It is hoped that over time this can be improved, making the transition from convict to a member of society much more smooth.