The thought of entering a correctional facility for the first time is terrifying. No matter how tough a person thinks he is, setting foot into the Hawaii Department of Correction facility is unnerving. Particularly where stories circulate about the violent conditions inside correctional facilities, it is enough to shake that toughness.
The very idea of being sent to a correctional may seem the end of everything. But there are those who came out and were able to face the challenges of a life outside the correctional. Prison life is difficult and frightening. A new inmate who prepares by having the proper mindset, the will to adapt to a new and threatening environment, and learns the prison code, will survive while serving time without incidence.
After hearing your sentence and before you are finally sent to the Hawaii Department of Correction facility, get hold of a book. Request a member of your family to bring you a book or anything to read like newspapers and magazines. There is not much to do inside the cell and reading a good book will take your mind away from unwanted and depressing thoughts.
Accept that you are now among offenders, as you are. You cannot expect gentle treatment from other inmates and from prison officers. You can however avoid getting into trouble with others by:
•respecting other inmates
•respecting prison officers
•respecting the code of behavior inside the correctional
The Golden Rule will serve you best.
Develop an instinct for upcoming trouble and try to avoid it as best you could. Learn to read signs that spell trouble. Trusting your instinct is better than rationalizing situations.
Contain your emotions like anger, fear, anxiety, happiness, and pain. Emotions make you vulnerable to other inmates who will take advantage of your moments of weakness.
Communicate with your family and friends. Make the most of visits, make calls and write letters to family and friends. Keeping in touch with them can lend a semblance of normalcy while you are serving time. These connections are also something you can look forward to, lend strength, and give you hope.
Re-entry to society
Leaving the prison and re-entering society is as difficult as entering prison. When you leave the correctional, you bring along with you your prison experiences. You are, therefore, a different person than when you entered Hawaii Department of Correction facility. You know this. But the people you will be meeting outside the correctional may think you are the same person then and now. This could pose a difficult situation for relationships.
Be patient with your family and your friends:
•Help them understand who and what you are now. Talk to them about your experiences inside, your realizations of who you are now, and what your plans are for your family and the future. Explain why you need time alone with yourself before you can truly embark on a new journey.
•Strengthen your social support system. Do not hesitate to seek friends and family members you can count on for assistance on job opportunities and other assistance you might need.
Never forget to be patient with yourself as well. Re-entry into society poses what might seem insurmountable difficulties. You need to be strong and manage your emotions and depression.
•Plan what to do during your idle time
•Think of places you can go when you get bored.
It is easy to fall into the old ways if you are not careful and alert. Believe that there is a future ahead of you and that you are in control of your own destiny.
Stability in Community life
The community you left is not the same community you find when you leave prison. The changes you notice may intimidate and frustrate your efforts to engage in community life. Reentry into a community could be difficult and tough. However, success is possible if you put your mind to it and work for community reintegration.
It is unproductive and risky to ‘just let things happen’ as you might slide back to the habits that led you to prison. Take control of your life and equip yourself with the tools needed to become an active and productive member of your community.
Vocational training: Now that you are back to your family, employment becomes necessary to support your family. Assess your abilities and capabilities and check vocational training programs in your community. When you find one which offers the skills training you prefer, register and commit to the training program. The training certificate helps in getting you a job; request the program for a job recommendation.
Education for certificate or diploma: There are companies who are willing to offer a second chance to ex-offenders. With an educational degree, the better are your chances of getting employed and receiving a bigger pay increase. You can attend a night school if it is convenient or search the internet for a distance school that offers the course you choose and register. In addition, inquire and volunteer in an apprenticeship program in your community. Capitalize on your abilities to work for you.
Social and civic connections: Be active in the community life. Being active in your community presents the opportunity to learn the culture and the people in your community. Being active also gives the members of your community the opportunity to appreciate the ‘present you’.
Communities often conduct social and civic programs. Ask your friends or local organizations and associations for a civic program for volunteer work. Getting involved in community activities is an excellent opportunity to help others, a chance to return favors given to you by friends and those you come into contact with in the community. Helping others and contributing to the community provides a feeling of gratification, confidence, and a feeling of success in your effort to reintegrate in society.
Counseling: After a long period of separation, being back with your family could cause an emotional crisis. Further, reintegrating in a community that seems strange will give you a culture shock. The changes you encounter can lead to depression and helplessness.
The tendency is to isolate yourself from connecting with people. This is where counseling serves in this stage of your transition. Seek either an individual counseling or group counseling; you may also opt to talk to a close and trusted friend, although an experienced counselor is in the best position to help. Group counseling has the advantage of easing adverse feelings knowing others share your experience. What is crucial is to talk and release pent-up emotions.
There are countless difficulties to overcome in achieving stability in life after incarceration. Consider these difficulties as challenges and focus on your vision of what you want for your family and yourself in the future. This vision serves as your strength and anchor for a bright future.