Life After Prison

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If you’ve been released from prison lately, you’re among the more than 10,000 prisoners released weekly. However, the sheer number of people reentering society is of concern for some advocates of prisoner welfare. 

If not resolved, former prisoners could face unique challenges, resulting in consequences like recidivism or a return to doing crime, which may lead to rearrests.

What unique challenges can you face as an ex-prisoner? How can you cope with such predicaments? Is life after prison a second chance to restart life, survive, and thrive?

This article discusses the challenges people released from prison face, including tips on resolving those problems. It reassures you that life after prison can be something to look forward to, no matter how challenging your prison experience was. 

Having an optimistic view of life is essential to improve life after prison. However, you should also be ready for the difficulties ahead, such as constant background checks and other legal requirements.

You can access criminal records and other legal documents concerning your arrest and incarceration by visiting As a former inmate, you may need your arrest records or other legal documents for employment or if you plan to apply for record expungement.

How Does Jail Change a Person?

Going to jail, whether for the first time or again, is never a pleasant experience. The dread of being confined against your will in a cell you can’t escape is disconcerting. 

You’ll miss the comforts you may have been accustomed to, and you’ll have to survive each day locked inside a cell with a stranger. What’s worse is that you’ll stay in jail, day in and day out, for as long as it takes to complete a sentence. 

Living in prison is life-changing. You’ll never forget your life behind bars, which can linger long after you’re released.  

Chicken and Egg

A prison release should be the start of a new life for an ex-inmate, but this is not always the case. Many people get thrown back in jail after release because they’ve committed again the crimes they were jailed for. In legal terms, this is called recidivism, a concern that the criminal justice system is working hard to resolve.

     However, the recidivism cycle is a chicken-and-egg dilemma. Further down the road, the cause and effect become a cycle. 

Recidivism is a real problem that you should be wary of if the environment you’re released to hasn’t changed. 

You may have encountered influences in your environment that urged you to resort to crime, get jailed, serve time, and be released. Predicaments such as this can push other ex-inmates to revert to crime.

Research has shown that the mindset of an individual before release might determine if they would keep on offending or entirely refrain from crime. Results showed the need for a strong and supportive prison system to help ex-inmates prepare for reentry into society

Easing Community Reentry

One way to reduce the risk of recidivism is for ex-offenders to have access to community reentry programs that will help them cope with society. These programs, primarily nonprofit groups, help former prisoners cope with the society they’re reentering.

Some programs that offer community reentry services are the following:

Reentry programs are essential in preparing an ex-con to reconnect with family members and friends, hoping this second chance will improve their lives. 

Schemes to Invest in Released Prisoners

One factor that seems to perpetuate the recidivism rates is homelessness. According to an article from Volunteers of America, formerly incarcerated people who become homeless after release tend to have a higher risk of reoffending.

You might encounter landlords who prefer tenants with no criminal records. However, one of the main reasons ex-inmates don’t have stable housing is that they can’t afford one. For them to afford one, they need jobs to have the money to pay for housing. 

If society invests in providing released prisoners with affordable housing geared to their unique situations, the recidivism rates may lower. 

What Is Post-Incarceration Syndrome?

There are cases where the prisoner’s pre-release experience in prison may cause mental health issues that manifest after being released. This condition has many symptoms, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder or PTSD. These mental conditions can affect a person’s life even after they gain freedom. 

If you experience these mental issues, don’t be afraid or shy to seek help. The first thing you can do is to enroll in therapy. Once you have advice from a trained professional, you can begin to work on overcoming your illness. 

What Does It Feel Like to Get Out of Prison?

After years of imprisonment, you’ll feel excited as the day of your release nears. However, some feel fear and anxiety, especially those that served long sentences or prison time.

Some inmates have lingering fears that reentry may be challenging, and you may feel the same. Then, there are cases where communities reject a person because of their criminal past that follows them wherever they go. These experiences can be scary and confusing. 

The solution for this is to maintain composure and get in touch with people or organizations that can help you cope with this difficult transition. You may find consolation with welfare groups, prison outreach programs from religious organizations, and government programs for reentry. 

What Do You Do With Your Life After Prison?

Life after prison is a time of rebuilding. If there’s anything you should prioritize, it’s getting back on track by rebuilding your life for the better. However, rebuilding is often challenging, as the rubble of your past life may still haunt you in the present.

If you’re recently released from prison, consider it as a milestone in your life. You’re now ready to face the world and become a better version of yourself. Your daily recovery chances increase if you manage your situation and continue pressing forward and sturdy in your commitment to starting a new life.

Understand Culture Shock

There is a considerable difference between the culture in society and the one developed within the microcosm of a state prison or federal prison facility. 

People who enter prison for the first time usually experience culture shock due to the different environments behind the walls of the correctional facility.

Similarly, some released inmates, especially those who have served and spent time incarcerated, feel like they’re entering a world so much different than when they left. Understanding culture shock may help support groups relate to people’s experiences on both sides of the fence.

What Is Culture Shock?

A person in culture shock feels an unreasonable or unexplained feeling of discomfort and uneasiness that may lead to mental issues that can disrupt daily life. This experience happens when a person is immersed in an unfamiliar environment.

Be Aware of Depression

Depression is a mental condition that should not be taken lightly. Depression may not manifest plainly, but there will be subtle behavior changes in a person having this condition. 

Suppose you feel down or depressed. It’s best to act fast and seek help from experts on this psychological condition. Remember that depression is no one’s fault, especially not yours. You are entitled to feel sad, but you also have the inherent right to pursue your happiness.  

Communicate Your Frustration

Venting emotional baggage can help release the tension inside a person’s mind. 

A person recently released from prison has many causes of frustration. One of these is rejections after job interviews, not because of a lack of skill but because of a criminal record and a past they want to forget.

You and your loved one should continue conversing where frustrations are vented freely. With healthy communication, you and your family can help keep everything together and hang on because, in time, life can get better.

Manage Anger

Deep frustration and dismay can lead to anger issues, resulting in faulty decisions and rearrests. Anger management is a program necessary for ex-prisoners with temper issues.

Deal With Rejection

An ex-con’s life is full of rejection, and it’s a reality that you should learn to accept. Your criminal records will always be highlighted when your personality is scrutinized during employment interviews or when applying for adequate housing. 

Ex-prisoners often cannot vote, they struggle to find employment, and the general population seems to have already made up their minds that formerly incarcerated people are forever bad and dangerous.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there, as some family members and friends may reject you due to your past crimes.

However, there is hope. New policies and new directions in resettlement strategies will help ex-cons distance themselves from their criminal history and to prepare for the painful reality of rejection that they experience in their social network for being formerly incarcerated individuals.

Resist Negative Influences

Ex-prisoners released to society may encounter people who have influenced them to commit crimes. They should resist these negative influences and become clean. Some inmates relocate to different locations to avoid unintended contact with their criminal past and bad social network.

Combat Addiction

One serious problem that people released from prison experience is reverting to addiction. One factor that can cause a previous inmate to become drug or alcohol-dependent (or go back to their old addictions) is their current environment.

Remember that there’s a risk of reverting to addiction if you mingle with people doing illegal drugs. It’s best to act quickly and seek professional help to fight addiction. 

Therapeutic Complexities

People released from prison can benefit from being part of a group that supports their successful reentry into society. Healthcare and welfare services must consistently aid people with past experiences with the criminal justice system. Life mentoring and case management can also help people reorient themselves in society.

Life After Prison Success Stories

Thousands of prisoners are released in the United States weekly, and they all have stories worthy of listening to. However, there are people with unique experiences that make their stories a source of inspiration and hope. 

Here are some life-after-prison success stories which can also happen to you.

Sean Pica, Hudson Link for Higher Education

Sean went to prison young. He was only in 9th grade but already got a 24-year sentence. However, this didn’t deter him from pushing through in life. He discovered the joy of teaching inside prison by reading children’s stories to fellow inmates. 

Sean enrolled in a degree-granting program while in prison and took college classes. After his release, he went on to further his education. He became the executive director of Hudson Link, the degree-granting program that started his road to success.

Tim Arnold, Lawn Life

Tim is one of the great examples that prior convictions and criminal records will not stop a person bent on improving their lives no matter what happens. He had twenty-seven convictions and spent six years in prison, dramatically affecting his life.

However, he pushed through, enrolled in real estate school, and upon release, founded a support group to help other inmates in their struggles in life.

He launched Lawn Life in 2008. Lawn Life is a nonprofit that employs formerly imprisoned young men and teaches them work ethics and business skills.

Kenyatta Leal, the Last Mile

Kenyatta received a life sentence when he was still 22 years old. His life could have shattered there and then, but it wasn’t the case. Despite his predicament, he pursued education and enrolled in a real estate school. 

While in prison, he connected with a group called The Last Mile. Here, Kenyatta was inspired to start teaching others how to code, and it was the start of his second life. He is now part of the trainers hired by Fortune 500 companies to train their staff how to code.

Richard Miles, Miles of Freedom

Richard felt the brunt of justice denied as he was incarcerated for an offense he didn’t commit. However, he didn’t allow this injustice to get a hold of his life.

After release, he faced the stigma of incarceration and received nothing from employers and housing programs. If it were to happen to other people, recidivism is highly likely. 

However, Richard pushed through and now provides help to incarcerated people in finding jobs, housing, healthcare, and physical and mental support.

Miles of Freedom offers educational classes, like a three-month Job Readiness Workshop, to help ex-cons learn about resume building, financial literacy, and job placement.

Marilyn Barnes, Root and Rebound

Drug addiction plagued Marilyn Barnes’s life, resulting in her incarceration. However, it was not the end for her. She contacted a support group called Root and Rebound, which allowed her to pursue a master’s degree. 

She was able to publish a book and is now actively participating in providing help to incarcerated people.

Hector, Getting Out and Staying Out

Hector, a troubled youth, got entangled with the law and thus got incarcerated in the infamous Rikers Island prison in New York

He got in touch with a support group called Getting Out and Staying Out (GOSO), and his life changed. He completed his studies and obtained a High School Equivalency Diploma and a certificate in masonry.

Life After 44 Years in Prison

One of the extreme cases of prison release stories is the story of Otis Johnson, who served 44 years in prison for attempted murder. 

Time passed him by as he contemplated in prison for four decades. A documentary about his life was called “My Life,” which caught the public’s attention.

Johnson had only his documents, $40, and two bus tickets when he was released. However, he didn’t fall into recidivism despite the treatment he initially experienced from society. 

Today, Johnson lives his life as best as he can, observing life in New York, communicating with people, and sharing his life as an inspiration to others.

Life after prison is a second chance for recovery and renewal. You can’t change the past, but you can always start building a future. Think of past failures as the foundation of a success story you will eventually accomplish. 


  1. Prisoners and Prisoner Re-Entry
  2. Chicken and Egg of Subjective and Social Factors in Desistance From Crime
  3. Return to drug use and overdose after release from prison: a qualitative study of risk and protective factors
  4. We Need to Rethink the Way We Treat Ex-Prisoners

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