If you’ve recently been released from prison, odds are good that you’ve been dreaming about life after incarceration for awhile. After all, in prison, it’s easy to fantasize about freedom and what you’re going to do once you’re out in the world again.
But having that freedom isn’t always an easy thing to handle. Many ex-prisoners wind up in jail again after being released, unable to adjust to life without jail. There’s no doubt that life after incarceration can be very difficult and full of challenges, but if you’re committed to making the most of your new lease on life, there are many things you can do to stay on the straight and narrow path.
Challenges or not, you can adjust to your new life through hard work, and here are some helpful tips to make it happen:
Get To Know The World Around You
Whether you’re been in prison for two months, two years, or two decades, the world undoubtedly looks a lot different than it did before your sentence began. Now that you have your freedom, you need to learn what’s different about the world you’re living in and adjust accordingly. Learn about everyday technological updates like cellphone upgrades and chips in credit cards. If you’re staying with family after you’ve been released, ask family members to help you adjust to changes in the world. Odds are things aren’t going to be drastically different, but learning about little nuances can help you as you move forward.
A big part of life after incarceration involves living life on your own. Living on your own and adjusting to your newfound freedom also means finding housing.
Finding housing isn’t always easy. You’ll be subject to a background check, and you might not even know where to start looking. Thankfully, you’ve got a lot of options at your disposal. One option to look into is transitional housing, which may actually be offered by your prison. Transitional housing will put you in contact with people who are going through the same things you’re going through and can help you adjust.
Another option is to look into opportunities through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). This agency can provide local income or free housing for people who meet certain requirements. Believe it or not, you may qualify for such housing, depending on the nature of your crimes.
Find Yourself A Job
Another big step in life after incarceration is finding steady employment. This can be another tricky road to navigate since most companies will do background checks. For those who are willing to give you a chance, the best thing you can do is be straightforward about why you went to prison and show in job interviews that you’re committed to making the most of your new life.
If you’re a handy sort of person, a good line of work to look into is contracting. This will provide you with steady employment and keep you busy if you’re looking for something to fill your time. If you work with a company of bathroom remodeling contractors for example, you’ll always have plenty to do and it’s doubtful that any two days of work will be the same. One day you could be working on installing new vanities, and the next day you could be working on flooring, or installing a new shower or tub.
Ultimately, the key during life after incarceration is to find a job that you can keep and that allows you to make enough to cover your day-to-day expenses. You can use this chance to get a new lease on employment and maybe take up something you never thought of previously. You can find a job that allows you to get to work immediately, or you may be able to go back to school for advanced technical training for jobs like air duct cleaning. There’s a lot of money to be had in specialty jobs like this, and if you have the training, you may have more opportunities for work then you know what to do with.
If you’re at all concerned about your chances for employment, or an employer is skeptical of your viability as a worker, you can consult an employment lawyer. An employment lawyer can help you in workplace disputes or discrimination lawsuits, but such a lawyer can also vouch for you and your credibility as a good employee.
Get Health Insurance
Once you’ve secured housing and secured a job, the next step in your new life after incarceration is to focus on your health. Once you’re able, that means getting yourself good health insurance. You never know when you might get sick, might need to go to the ER, or might need access to over-the-counter medications. With a good health insurance plan, you can visit a local walk-in medical clinic to get a physical, or for quick medical treatment when you’re feeling under the weather.
A good insurance plan can also help you with other aspects of your health. If you’re in need of new glasses or contacts, you can use your vision insurance to get new specks. If it’s been a while since you’ve been to the dentist, you can use your dental insurance for teeth cleanings, x-rays, getting braces or clear aligners, or even dental work like dealing with cavities or having teeth pulled.
You can never be sure when you’ll need to take care of a health issue and by having insurance, you won’t have to ever hesitate about going into a clinic should you need to.
Find A Routine
It’s true that life after incarceration involves a lot of steps and a lot of important decisions. But finding housing, getting insurance, and finding a job are all important steps to take so you can ultimately establish some routine in your life.
In prison, your time might not be your own, but you’ve got a sense of routine since every minute of every day is basically planned out for you. When you’re out of prison, your time is your own, and you may not know what to do with so much time on your hands. As exhilarating as it might be to be a free man or a free woman, it can also be very stressful.
It may be stressful because you may not know when to plan your meal times and how to pass the time when you’re not at work, or even when to sleep. Finding and establishing a daily routine can make life less stressful and help you find a sense of order. You don’t have to do anything super drastic. You can establish what time you eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day. Once you’ve got that down, try setting a time that you’re going to climb into bed every day. Once you’ve done that, you can gradually add in more things, even if they seem small. Having that routine will keep you grounded, help you keep order, and help you accomplish short and long term goals.
Cut Out Negative Influences
Another of the most important parts of life after incarceration is steering clear of negative influences once you’re on the outside. As great as having freedom and independence is, there’s no doubt that there are a lot of temptations out there in the world.
Sometimes that’s easier said than done, however, and part of that involves your relationships. If you’re moving back to your old stomping grounds, you’re likely going to see some of the people you used to hang around with. If some of these relationships are toxic, you need to do your best to avoid them. If some folks don’t bring out the best in you, you need to disassociate from them.
You also need to avoid negative people. Adjusting to your new life and new routine is difficult, and the last thing you want is to fall into a cycle of negativity if you’re around the wrong people. Being around the wrong kind of people can make it easy to fall back into old habits. Those old habits may lead you back to prison if you’re not careful.
There are many bail bond agents, who can help you avoid going back to prison if you’re able to make bail, and with more than 1.3 lawyers in the United States, there are more than a few who can represent you legally to help you avoid prison. But if you’re just ending a long prison stint and getting your first taste of freedom in a long time, your best bet is to steer clear of negativity and situations where you might get yourself in trouble.
Having the support of family and friends is important when you’re navigating life after incarceration, but you can also help yourself adjust by finding other means of support.
Thankfully, you’ve got some good options on the table. One option is finding a support group in your local area. These groups—whether you’re dealing with loss or recovery from addiction—can be very helpful because others in the group can relate to what you’re going through.
By finding a group with shared experiences, you can build a meaningful and healthy life after prison and establish new, healthy habits. These groups can also become part of your routine, especially if they have weekly meetings.
Another option you have is to go to a therapist. Even if you’ve been taught to be tough in prison, you’re likely experiencing a lot of emotions as a free person and you have to have a way to process all of them. If you’re dealing with depression or anxiety, a therapist can help you find healthy ways to deal with them. A therapist can also help you rebuild relationships, especially if you’re looking to reconnect with friends and family.
Still another option you have for connection and networking is to join a local church. Even if you’re not overly religious, a church is a great place to build meaningful relationships. It can also be part of your new routine and can help you contribute in your community. Not only can you have a place to worship on a weekly basis, you can possibly go on mission trips where you might offer roofing services to build shelters for communities going through crisis or help to rebuild a community after a natural disaster.
Get Your Legal Affairs In Order
Life after incarceration might occasionally involve legal check-ups to make sure you’re doing what you’re supposed to be doing. If, for example, you’ve been released on probation, your criminal defense attorney will represent you in court and detail all the ways you’ve changed your life for the better. If you’ve really worked hard to shed yourself of old habits and done everything you’re supposed to be doing, this is the chance to put a spotlight on that.
The same can be said for a local bail agency or bail bondsman if you need to show up to court for hearings. The best thing you can do is show up when you’re supposed to be there, so that there aren’t any hiccups in your path to a new life. Bail agencies can be very helpful to folks hoping to avoid a prison stay, but you don’t want to have bail revoked or have any red flags pop up if you have slip-ups. In short, if you’re on thin ice upon being released, you don’t want anybody to have a reason to send you back to prison. Your bail bondsman can help if you have any questions.
Take It One Day At A Time
It’s true that life after incarceration can be challenging, but ultimately, it can offer you a chance to start over and really live life to the fullest. The best thing you can do is take things one day at a time. Some days are going to be good and some will be bad. By finding steady employment and affordable housing, you can have your own privacy and your own sense of independence. By establishing an easy-to-follow routine and establishing meaningful connections, you can have a greater sense of purpose in life and really make the most of the second chance you’ve been given.