Serving a lengthy prison sentence is certainly difficult, but adjusting to life after prison proves to be an even greater challenge for many. However, taking the right measures can greatly increase your chances of successful reintegration into society.
Find a Place to Live
Your initial goal should be to secure a place where you can stay after being released. Parole conditions will probably dictate that you cannot be homeless, and an important part of successfully transitioning from prison life into the “real world” is to find a suitable living arrangement. If you do not have a place of your own to go back to, make arrangements to stay with a family member or a friend until you can afford a place of your own.
Associate With the Right People
A major mistake made by many former inmates is that they fall back into associating with people who may lead them astray. Old ties can be hard to ignore, but do everything you can to place yourself in a situation that will enable you to avoid legal infractions, even if it means avoiding interactions with certain friends and family members. The guidelines of your parole will probably prevent you from living or even associating with ex-convicts, and it is important that you place yourself in a positive environment with people who are reliable and law-abiding. Also, avoid unhealthy relationships with people where there is potential for abuse or violence or who simply want to prevent you from being successful.
Find a Job
Perhaps the key to successfully transitioning back into society from prison is to find legal, gainful employment, and that process can begin by preparing a resume and cover letter highlighting your skills and credentials. Your parole conditions may require you to work, and doing so will allow you to earn money that can be put toward achieving enough financial freedom to where you can live independently. Finding a job greatly lessens the temptation to fall back into crime due to the financial security it provides. While finding a job can prove to be especially challenging for former prisoners, you can increase your chances by remaining drug-free and using resources such as classified ads and Internet sites such as Jobs for Felons. Also, dress nicely for interviews, and be willing to take an entry-level position.
Life after prison can be emotionally difficult due to the degree of sudden change and the fact that many former prisoners may still be haunted by past experiences. Counseling and other support services are available free of charge to former inmates through government agencies such as Court Services and Offenders Supervision Agency. Taking advantage of counseling opportunities can give you the tools you need to deal with such feelings successfully and improve your mental health, which is of utmost importance in facing the challenges that lie ahead.
- New York State Department of Correctional Services: "Coming Home" -- A Family's Guide to Reunification
- Jail Exchange: How to Help Someone Adjust to Life After Prison"
- ExOffenders: Jobs for Felons, Felon Friendly Employment
- CSOSA: Programs and Services
- American Psychological Association: Rehabilitate or Punish
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