Title: Loosed without amnesty
Choosing between maintaining one’s freedom verses returning to confinement may seem like an obvious choice. For some ex-offenders it is more than just picking one over the other, it can be a tough obstacle which requires strong will to overcome.
When we think of prison, we think of a separate society developed to keep criminals out of ours. There are some who we don’t ever want to step foot back in our communities, but this does not change the fact that all ex-offenders are not murderers, rapists or psychopaths. Some are people just like you and I. They have made mistakes that unfortunately had consequences that caused them time in prison. These things can happen to anyone and it takes a strong individual to overcome some of the setbacks of being labeled an ex-offender.
People refuse to acknowledge or understand the trials and tribulations associated with being an ex-offender and returning back into society. The loss of support from loved ones, changes in society since incarceration, and the struggles in finding employment and residence are just a few of the challenges that some may face. Both during and after the required sentence, there may have been a lack of job training and placement assistance available to them. Even if it were, the number of job and housing markets that are willing to accept them is small. Employers and housing communities require background checks and for felons, this means the dreaded “door slam in the face”.
Not only are their rights taken and their chances slim on finding work that is legit, but the family they’ve left behind may not want to have anything at all to do with them. Maybe it’s due to the crime they’ve committed or that the family is content with the fact that their lives can continue without them.
Upon “touching down” (what some refer to as returning to the free world) ex-offenders must try to adapt to the changed world they’ve left behind. Our ever changing society may be far from what they remember and depending on the length of the sentence and connection to the outside, they may be welcomed by many drastic changes. For example: someone sentenced in 1950 and now being released in 2013 will have a lot of catching up to do.
Ex-offenders mostly come back to a community that clearly states “you are not welcome!” and this causes all types of thoughts and actions as a result, such as finding comfort in drugs or alcohol, resorting to crime, taking their own life and even looking for ways to return to what they know best -prison.
George also known as Raheem is a 42 year old black male. Since the age of 16 he has spent most of his life behind bars. Even after being released twice during his adult life, he has found his way back once again. While in prison he managed to obtain his G.E.D. and take up a trade in plumbing, but that alone was not good enough. This caused him to become discouraged. Besides his constant job trouble, he found himself staying from place to place, having little money, and dealing with his family doubting his every move. After about a year of trying to do right, he felt it was time to do what he had to. His only thoughts at this time were that in order to survive this cold world, he would have to resort to crime. Crime was the only source that would mean money for rent, food, clothes, shelter and whatever else he wanted. It also meant a make shift family (crime family) to belong to. Selling crack cocaine, check fraud, lying, stealing and whatever it took to make his money Raheem did in attempts to live the so called American dream. He never would have thought that a mistake made during his adolescent years would cause a chain reaction leading straight into a dead end.
To Raheem things like trust, forgiveness, and love do not exist. In a world that would not even give him a chance to do it right, he chose crime to overcome his struggle. Even with crime being his main benefactor, he found himself back in the “chain gang” and not because of those crimes, it’s because he violated his probation by failing a urinalysis.
Raheem is not a so called bad guy. His actions are based on how he was categorized and denied fair rights along with every other ex-offender that has served time. It’s like someone stamps their foreheads in bold letters “NOT WORTHY!” Society does not want to accept ex-offenders any longer and the only chance given to them is their release from prison. They are never really free to work and live where they please or even have a normal life. Society makes sure that they will never really be free from the mental and emotional chains they will carry for the rest of their lives. So prison for them may become a revolving door.
The moment criminals are loosed from the walls of prison in an attempt to live as free men is the moment they realize that they were never forgiven for their crimes, only locked away to have been forgotten in time.