Ronald Day, Associate Vice President at The Fortune Society

Fortune Society VP Offers Up
14 Suggestions For A Successful Reentry

Monday, October 26, 2015

The reentry process from prison or jail can be complicated and replete with challenges. There are, however, effective ways to navigate the process and to have a successful reentry.

While it is best to find out what applies to your particular circumstances, here are 14 suggestions that worked for me and for many others:

• Understand that reentry begins from the moment you enter prison. Don’t wait until you get close to release to prepare for your transition.

• Address the primary issue that resulted in your incarceration. You may have been convicted of possession or sale of a controlled substance, or robbery, but the primary issue may be negative peer associations or a warped value system.

• There is power in networking. Establish professional relationships with people who support your pro-social goals and aspirations, including parole officials.

• Education is transformative. The more education you earn, the greater the likelihood that you will be successful. (Education is defined broadly, not just academic education.)

• You will likely need to be gainfully employed upon release. Prepare as much as possible now for future employment opportunities. There are skills that you can acquire now that will go a long way towards supporting your success. Soft skills will be extremely important (i.e. showing up on time, appropriate eye contact, “good morning,” etc.).

• Substance use is a big problem. It is difficult to maintain employment with an addiction. Depending on how much time you have served, there are many more cheap, but deadly drugs on the market (e.g. K2). There are more effective ways to cope with stress, anxiety, depression, and other issues associated with prison and reentry. Address your substance use issue now and be open to receiving support once you transition.

• Family support is imperative. Be sure you do not take family and friends for granted. Understand, however, that these folks can sometimes be your biggest enablers. Will they hesitate to inform you if you are going astray?

• Consistency. You need to be consistent. There is a saying that “some people are consistently inconsistent.” Say what you mean and mean what you say. Don’t tell someone you will be there by 9 AM and show up at 9:30 AM and say that you woke up late or that the bus was running late.

• Don’t come home with a sense of entitlement. I cannot emphasize this enough. Many people face this challenge. No one owes you anything. Even if someone really “owes” you, ask yourself whether it’s worth the aggravation and frustration to collect on your debt. It’s often best to start over with a fresh slate.

• Attitude, attitude, attitude. A positive attitude will take you far. A negative attitude will take other people far — away from you.

• What you do here matters. “Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can do today,” particularly if it’s something fundamental to your transition or to your overall health and well-being.

• Criminal thinking is profoundly detrimental. If you think that you can get away with committing a crime or that you don’t have anything to lose, then you’ll be more likely to take a chance. Ending involvement in crime starts with thinking and planning how to be successful through pro-social means and interaction with conventional others. If the only thing that you have to lose is your freedom, then it’s not worth it.

• There will be barriers to face during the reentry process. Some of these barriers will be more frustrating than others. The goal is to believe in yourself, to recognize your value. As Nelson Mandela once said, “Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”

To this point, there was a study conducted that looked at highly successful people. The one thing that they all had in common was not social-economic status, education, ambition, or motivation. What they had in common was grit, which “is not just having resilience in the face of failure, but also having deep commitments that you remain loyal to over many years.”

• There are agencies and programs that are willing to work with you on multiple fronts. Remember: you are not alone!

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