One of the most difficult things to do in life is to walk a different path. It is difficult for people who haven't had the added stress of going to prison and even more difficult for someone who has been recently released from prison. Life after prison is often a struggle. Faced with many challenges such as lack of employment, lack of skills and even lack of social reintegration. The good news is that going to prison does not have to define you or condemn you to a life not worth living. In this post, we will dive into how to turn your life around after going to prison and create personal goals that will keep you from going back.
What are the problems prisoners face after release from prison?
We alluded to some of the problems prisoners face after release from prison at the top of our posts. Let's dive into them further here.
Lack of Employment
It is interesting that as a society, we expect the formerly incarcerated to contribute to the society, yet we create barriers to allowing them to do so. Many people released from prison will face issues with getting a job. Oftentimes they don't have the experience needed for the job or they come across jobs that tell them they don't want them because they have been to prison or have a criminal record. They also have to explain the gap in their resume. Why are there several years of experience missing from their resume? This creates a vicious cycle that sometimes leads them back to prison.
See below tips on some ways you can explain the gap on your resume
Lack of Skills
Let's face it, prison life is not always productive. Not everyone there learns new skills, compound that with the fact that they were probably lacking employment and life skills before they went into prison. Most jails are just there to warehouse prisoners, without any kind of skill development programs. Leaving prisoners without any kind of growth or new skills that they can use when they get out of prison.
Lack of Social reintegration
It is hard for people to understand that socialization in prison versus socialization that happens outside prison is vastly different. There is a subculture in prison that only someone who has spent time in there can explain. "I just came from a place where respect is a big thing." explains Taylor who spent 4 years in a federal prison for a gun charge. He explained to us that how you behave in there is based on a hierarchical system that is not always flexible. This and other factors force prisoners to get into survival mode and for the lucky ones a countdown to when they can finally get out. If you function in survival mode all the time, you start to sometimes view the world as "us against them." Creating major trust issues. Creating major communication issues. Due to this, reintegration back into a different outside world can cause some major problems. It can create some major mental health challenges. Which leads us into our next point.
Major mental health issues
Many inmates, even the really self-proclaimed tough ones go into prison with some kind of underlying mental health problem. Problems that stem from either childhood trauma, drug addiction or just regular life issues. Oftentimes, they are thrown into a warehousing and survival hierarchy system and have to figure it out themselves. Some spend 4 years or more in a building and come out with if not more mental health issues. When they come out of prison, they not only have mental health issues but are told that at the same time they have to find a way to become a productive member of society. While under the watchful eye of a parole officer.
The above challenges create a cocktail of doubt and lack of self-worth for most ex inmates. The good news(we love giving out good news here at Next Level Gurus), is that you can leave prison behind and still have a successful life.
Here is how you can turn your life around after going to prison.
Make mental health a top priority
Going to prison as we have outlined so far in our post is a very traumatic experience. One of the first things you should do when you get out of prison is find a good mental health provider. Someone who can help you break down what you have just gone through and put together a good mental health plan for dealing with your trauma. A good mental health provider will help you to assess some of the following questions:
- Are you struggling with anxiety?
- Are you having feelings of worry and stress?
- Are you struggling with a low or down mood?
- Are you thinking of harming yourself or someone else?
This crucial first step will set the stage for the successes that you will have for the rest of your future. Think about it, if you were walking down the street and you saw a house on fire and you saw a container with gasoline and you also saw a water hose, which one makes more sense to throw at the fire. One will make the fire bigger and the other will make the fire die down. Dealing with your mental health is like choosing the water hose. We can't underscore how important this step is. Good mental health = Good or better choices.
Re-evaluate your personal network
Having a good network is one of the keys to success. And let's face it, you probably ended up in prison because you had a bad network of friends and associates. For this very reason, you must re-evaluate your network and only keep the people who understand your goals and are good enough to help you achieve your goals. Here's what you should be asking yourself in doing a network evaluation review:
- What are the values of the people in my life?
- Do their values align with my values?
- What are their life goals?
- Does this person add value to my life or take away from it?
- Will hanging around this person endanger my freedom and help send me back to prison?
- What kind of partnership can I form with this person to create a better future for both of us?
- Is this person a wisdom driven person?
Since we are a platform dedicated to helping members become the guru in their lives- the pursuit of wisdom is huge for us. The only way to have a comprehensive view of your life and allow for informed decisions is through knowledge. Whether you sign up to get knowledge through formal school programs or you are more a DIY(Do it yourself) knowledge seeker, it must become part of your life journey. When you actively seek and pursue wisdom, you will realize that your whole world will open up. Join membership sites like NLG or go to the library and read books. Watch a podcast! Engage in a good youtube video. The point here is to have an openness to learning new things. Limiting yourself to only your past experiences or your limited circle and geography is one of the worst things you can continue doing after your release from prison. To change your life for the better, you can't stay ignorant. Seek and pursue wisdom.
Not only should you get in the habit of creating new positive goals for yourself but you also have to ensure that your goals are in alignment with your values. You might have had a certain set of values before you went to prison and now have a different set of values. If you are in a life changing mode, you most likely want different things for yourself. The goals you create have to match your new beliefs or they will become harder to accomplish.
Now that you are out of prison and you have learned a bunch of things and you are finally creating the life that you want. Now it is time to pass on the knowledge and extend a hand down to someone else. When you re-evaluated your network, you probably formed new relationships with people who most likely helped you along the way. Paying it forward creates a ripple effect of kindness and acts of service which will only help you feel better about yourself. Paying it forward allows you to reach back and pull someone else up. For example, maybe one of your goals was to learn Calculus( a very ambitious goal by the way but doable), and you have mastered it in the 6 month timeline you gave yourself. Why not help someone who is just starting the process of learning calculus to learn faster by avoiding some of the mistakes you made. A service driven lifestyle is key to paying it forward.
A big part of change is having the ability to tell your story to anyone who will listen. Telling your story is a natural way to invite new people into your life who might enrich your personal network. It is also a great way to promote accountability. Yes, you made mistakes but we all have. Wanting to change your life for the better is a journey. It won't happen overnight, so don't expect it too.
Explaining the gap on your resume- Example # 1: Accountability Journey
Explaining the gap on your resume- Example # 2: Omit the gap
Explaining the gap on your resume- Example # 3: Use the Gap to highlight achievement
Did you take any special programs or get any special certifications while you were in prison? Use the gap to highlight your achievements and show that you were productive while incarcerated. Maybe you graduated high school or got a degree in a certain area. If you are trying to go into manufacturing, did you get your forklift license or did you get your WHMIS certificate or Working at Heights Certificate? You can put it on your resume like this:
Here is a summary of how you can turn your life around
We welcome people from all walks of life to our membership. The only ask is that you have a desire to seek knowledge and create the kind of wisdom that will create better successes in your life. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let us know how we can help you turn your life around or support you.
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