Sometimes we, at Stepping Stones to Success find others that "Get it" when it comes to helping others "Get it". Reuben Miller is one of those people. In his TED talk, we find clarity and answers about the harsh reality of freedom that is not so free for many that are on parole in the USA. It is well worth a viewing - click the next link to see this 18 minute presentation.
HOW RADICAL HOSPITALITY CAN CHANGE THE LIVES OF THE FORMERLY INCARCERATED
I had a strange moment. I guess I've had many strange moments, but this one was a bit scary. My transitional home is beautiful, the people are friendly, and everyone around me-including parole-has been helpful. But, I've been home alone a lot. I started to get lonely. Real lonely. I'm in a strange city, I'm not working, I don't have transportation, and I don't have any where to go. I began to miss prison.
I didn't want to tell anyone because I was embarassed, and I was worried about being punished. In prison, your encouraged to express your thoughts and then your punished for doing just that. For example, if your feeling suicidal you should tell someone right. The reasonable response would be to interview the person and then to determine the seriousness of the "feeling". In reality, by making your feeling known, serious or not, you are also making someone write a report and that means they have to stay late. Your brow beat, if not chastised. Your stripped butt naked, usually in the cold, and stuck in a filthy holding tank with no mattress or clothes-well, you get to keep a heavy smock. If your real lucky, you are in a room with a toilet instead of a hole in the floor. Every inmate knows that prison rewards bad behavior and punishes good behavior (a bold statement that I promise to elaborate on, but I'm digressing).
I was feeling an overwhelming sense of depression. I typed into Google and Quora questions like, "why do I miss prison," "am I crazy for missing prison," "what does it mean when an inmate misses prison." The first thing I realized is that I was not alone. I saw some really good answers that explained my anxiety and my depression. I couldn't believe how normal it was to feel that way. In fact, I didn't quite believe what I was reading, but it did give me the courage to start talking to some of the men I live with. Each of them told me about going through the same thing.
I have not gotten through my little slump. But, I am very aware of the good fortune and support in my life right now. I am a recovering meth addict. My pattern of behavior has been depression, despair, apathy, needle! I have been clean a really long time, but life and freedom are new to me. Learning to handle problems out here requires a new set of cognitive tools. It's not easy, and I'm not sure I could have done it on my own. It is really comforting knowing that I have people I can talk to. It is also a tremendous help that my basic needs are taken care of: if I had to worry about survival and safety on top of these other stressful thoughts, I think I would be overwhelmed and I'd probably start using. It's obvious to me now why the inmates who don't accept the help are quick to recidivate.
I miss prison, because I spent more than 40% of my life locked up. Its familiar to me. Everything out here is unfamiliar. Its exciting one moment and stressful the next.
I've never written a blog. I've never seen a smart phone. I've never used social media. I knew I was missing out on a lot, but I had no idea just how many things would be foreign to me after serving fifteen years in the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
In prison we want what we don't have--everything. I've seen inmates go crazy over a green rag because it was the only one on the yard. Eventually there are two green rags then three and so on. Now everybody wants the first yellow rag. It seems ridiculous to you because you've never lived in a world of greys and blues. Everyone wears the same clothes: grey shorts or blue pants, grey sweat shirt or a white t-shirt, grey hat or white hat. Even the walls are grey concrete or white "ish". All day every day the same three or four colors.
Now that I am out of prison, I am overwhelmed by all the choices. It's funny because I heard it can be stressful, but I didn't think it would be that way to me. How could a guy be overwhelmed by the choices of cereal. Just pick the one you missed the most right. Now that I am staring at them, I realize I didn't even know half of them existed. Prison conditions inmates to be mindful of other peoples personal space, yet in the grocery store that lady is the third person to bump into me in the past five minutes. How can I choose a cereal with all these people moving around me. Why does the clerk on the PA sound like he's saying, "get down". Am I sweating, my glasses are fogging up. God I'm making a fool of my self, I feel like everyone is staring at me. You know, I don't need cereal.
Everything is new and every new thing is a lot more complicated than I imagined it would be. People tell me I'm doing great-- I don't feel that way. Inside, I am often frazzled, anxious, and afraid. I'm getting more comfortable each day, but I imagine some effects are permanent. And that is one of the many reasons why Stepping Stones to Success is here - to help all of those, like me, who need to be able to navigate this new-to-us world.
Getting the story for Stepping Stones to Success out there is of utmost importance to us. There has been (and is) such a tremendous amount of erroneous data and misleading statements about those in transition that we long to see replaced with simple truths about the men, their lives, and what we are doing to help. Below is one short interview. Enjoy.
Being a victim of any serious crime is excruciatingly hard on the victim and families. The evidence of this can be seen in this interview by a woman that had a husband commit years of harmful criminal acts against their family.
After you listen to her story unfold, we think you will come away from it with a new view of all the people affected by this crime.
Stepping Stones to Success works with not just those in re-entry that have committed the crimes, but also with their families. Contact us today if you need help in these areas. While we cannot help in all situations, chances are we know someone that can help you if we are unable to.
Its a hard reality when you find yourself up agents' a brick wall. its like the 602 prosses inside, you file and get a partially granted only they never tell you what was granted and if you write and ask they say the issue has been resolved and your back where you started. I recently found myself in this place again,
I'm needing 3000 hours of work experience in order to graduate and get my A.O.D. certification and the place I work as a night monitor the hours don't count. I need the office hours doing intakes and one on ones, running groups and such but the approval to work with CDCR clients is dragging its feet. I know it should not take that long to clear me so I'm like stupid mad no one wants to make the decision. Just make it and I'll know to move on or stay.
I decided to write this to you so you know when you hit your brick wall there is someone here who understands your struggle. It can be so frustrating you want to pull out you hair, but we can't the struggle we face coming back from our long time out is one we made and only we can finish is. I'll keep my head up push on and I know in the end it will all be worth it. Good luck to you and remember we can do this without going back in! ExOffender
I have a little story about a man who spent 33 years in prison and never expected to get out. This man first realized there was hope so he started going to groups, at first it was only to fulfill the requirements for the Board of Prison Terms, but something happened while this man was in these groups. Things were said that were familiar to him and he started to really listen to what was being said. After a while he found himself participating in discussions and educating himself in way's to change not only his life but his outlook on life and his hope for the future.
Thing's didn't happen overnight for this man but change did come and learning to apply the lessons he had learned. Fast forward 8 years and this man who had no hope goes to the Board and they find him suitable, 6 months later he is a free man out on the streets.
Talk about culture shock, it was overwhelming at first but using the things he had learned he was able to adjust to his new life , what's more he was able to fulfill a promise to a few of his mentors and counselors to use his skills learned in the groups to help others. he enrolled in collage to get his AOD counseling license and starting with only $250.00 in a secured credit card In 2 years has reached a 710 credit score and was just approved for a $1500.00 unsecured card. All this from a man whom at one time had no hope it's just a story of hope and the way things can change if you really try. I know this man well can you guess who it is :) God bless you all till next time
I thought it would be important to pass the information about voting rights for those of us who have had a felony conviction. For myself there were many times while I was in that I wished it were possible for me to vote because of the laws that were being passed that effected me and I felt I had no voice in the matter.
When I was released I felt I had payed the price required for my mistakes in life and for that reason I should have my rights as a citizen of the United States returned to me, of course there were certain of them I knew I had forfeited forever like the right to own a gun even for hunting, but to not have the right to vote did not make since to me. I work and pay taxes, yet I'm not allowed to vote for those who govern me and make the decisions about this country and town I live in?
Thankfully there were people working to correct this long before I ever got out of prison and now it is possible for us to vote once we are off parole. Below I'm giving you a link to an article a friend of mine showed me that covers a lot of information on this subject. The thing I want us to remember is that if we don't exercise our right to vote we give away our right to be governed by our choice.
It is a relief to know that Stepping Stones to Success is here to help me through all of these hurdles.
Till next time
It may sound simple to some, but adjusting to life after Prison is just a bit more complicated for those getting out. The amount of time you spent inside effects just how well the reintegration prosses goes, but it changes in as little as 6 months. For those on the outside it's been life as usual and the changes went for the most part un-noticed. But for our loved ones its a whole new world. For the past month's or year's there lives have been ran by system that told them when to get up, when to eat, and when to go to sleep. It was filled the same routine of a pre-planed day and night and now they have to get use to planning that day and night on there own. Besides the difficulties of getting a drivers license, Social Security Card, Birth Certificate, and finding a job, they have to do this on there own with no direction. Some are lucky enough to have family to help but most are sent to halfway houses, or residential programs that are far away from family just the way prisons are. It's easy for us to get around, we just "google it" but if you have never even used a cell phone Google is a strange animal you've never seen. Then there is the social aspect, just talking to family becomes an issue after the "I love yous" have all been said, where dose the conversation go because for the last how many ever years I've only talked with other prisoners and those conversations are not understood very well beyond the inside of prison walls. Yes they will learn to make this adjustment and in time they will Google with the best of us. I'm just pointing out a few things you might want to be aware of with your newly released family member. Have an extra dose of patients and understanding in dealing with him or her, there kind of like a new born and will need to be hand held for a short while you'll just have to re-train them on how to be a human again after coming from such an inhuman place. They Grow up quick and before you know it they will be the Father, Mother, Son, Daughter, Wife, Husband, you remember. As a last word just feed and water them daily with your love and watch them grow :)
till next time