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Opportunities & Resources for Ex-Offenders: 5 Tools for Survival After Release to Avoid Recidivism

Updated on October 7, 2012

Bars Don't Disappear with Release

Beyond the Bars
Beyond the Bars
Released to another Prison?
Released to another Prison?
Criminal Captive
Criminal Captive
Is it the Bars that Bind ?
Is it the Bars that Bind ?
Mind Map-Where it all Starts
Mind Map-Where it all Starts
Caged Hope?
Caged Hope?

Committed to Survival-Avoiding Recidivism

Having made some very poor choices in my younger years I know first hand how difficult it is to find a place in the world once deciding to turn around a life derailed. A bout with addiction or romancing Mr. Wrong can send one on a trip to no where, landing in Rehab, the County Jail or much worse. Once you have paid your dues and done your time, the battle has really just begun. Because someone in this situation does not typically possess the life skills or self-esteem to succeed, it is an uphill battle and there simply are not enough resources out there to provide even minimum support. Survival must be an absolute focus and personal mission to avoid the high rate of recidivism and positive guidance is essential.

Unfortunately our society perpetuates the criminal revolving door by further isolating ex-cons: "Do you have any felony convictions? If so please explain." You will, no doubt find these words splashed across everything these days - from job applications to filing a civil lawsuit or doing volunteer work, giving the "ex"-con little hope for ever attaining any sense of normalcy in life. Even if ones' incarceration time was used to reflect, mature and make positive changes in life, there are so many obstacles to overcome and increasingly fewer support services available to assist with re-entry into society. With more and more budget cuts and fewer services to potentially provide guidance and direction to society's newly released offenders, the chances of successfully reintegrating as a productive member of the community are not good.

Don't get me wrong, no one is suggesting that the victims of crime should ever be forgotten...the truth is, most women and the majority of men who are in prison are victims themselves, many are so use to being victimized that they actually do not understand any other way of life and are not aware that the degradation that they have been subjected to since childhood is not normal and that perhaps, they deserve to be treated with respect. How can one respect others and develop a sense of empathy if they have never been loved or treated with respect as a child?

In order to survive out here, the destructive cycle must be broken. Society must understand that some day, most prisoners will be released and if no proactive steps, such as education, job preparation, anger management, and parenting skills, are taken prior to release, then we will indeed continue to warehouse lawbreakers, many who just do not know any other way to live. Unfortunately, this essential support is simply not available to the extent that it should be right now, so one must really be committed to change and make the decision that they want to finally break free of their caged existence - no matter how hard it is; Allowing all the anger and frustration to finally motivate change by re-channeling a lifetime of failure into a spark of hope . Sounds impossible, but the snowball effect will kick in and before long, one success will precede another, salvaging yet another lost life. It can be done with a sincere commitment to change and a strong desire for a better life.

Here are a few tools that will help to motivate survival after release:

  1. Find someone that you respect, whose life works that you want to emulate and look to them for support - even with the most basic, simple, everyday tasks and decisions. There are sometimes support groups and networks like AA that use this theory in their recovery process.
  2. If opportunity is not knocking on your door, you may need to get out, be seen, and do volunteer work. Meet people, introduce yourself to a different stranger every day! GET INVOLVED and be part of a solution. Not easy, but there are many places that will welcome what you have to offer, a love of animals, working with plants, building, computers. Passion creates the energy to take action. All you have to do is take that first step out the door, the rest will follow.
  3. Market what you are good at. I know this is hard, coming from a place where you do not have the ability to make daily decisions for yourself but everyone has strengths! Take a notebook and write down things that you do well. Lately, the focus in life has been on what you have done wrong, not on what you have done right so your list will probably be short at first. Try to think back and remember times when people commented on one of your strengths, and then add it to your list. Soon this list will begin to provide insight into possible occupations, training that you can pursue, etc. Share your talents with others - it may work into a business, maybe not but it will make you feel productive at the very least and give you a better idea of what kind of work to pursue.
  4. Take a class and learn how to do something new. You just might find your calling, new career or just have fun waking up your brain cells that you haven't used for awhile.
  5. After 5 years, you can answer "no" to most applications that ask if you have any criminal convictions. Businesses typically outsource background checks to companies that check references. Depending on the position they can check everything from employment history, education, criminal, credit, citizenship, etc and they typically only go back 5 years. Depending on the position however, many employers are very extensive so you will probably want to steer clear of Government jobs, School districts, etc. as they go back a lifetime to make sure that you are everything that your application says.
  6. The good news is that you can eventually go back and get your record expunged and/or sealed. It will not actually be erased but for purposes of employment and bettering yourself, after you have applied for and been granted a sealed record, it will simply not be viewable to everyone, allowing you to obtain a decent job and place within our society. Each State is different but in California there are forms online that you simply fill out and send in typically after you are off probation or parole, paid all your restitution and lived a crime-free life for awhile. You send this form in with approximately $100 - $200 non-refundable processing fee and it takes them a few months to get back to you with the decision. Keep in mind that you must use the form for the County which convicted you and have your case number available along with the conviction date. In most Counties you can also go back to court yourself and request to have your record sealed by scheduling an appearance with the Court Clerk to appear before the Judge. If you have a decent few productive years and you are off parole or probation there is a good chance it will be granted, (not available for everyone to see) improving your chances of moving ahead with your career and your life! Many County Clerk's Offices are very helpful -- just ask!

Believe in yourself, and the way you do that is by not giving up! We all have our demons: drugs, anger, booze, parties, bad relationships, things we are not proud of but that is life! Don't be afraid to ask for help, you in turn will help someone else in order to survive and that is how we begin to change the cycle.


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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      This is great information! Anyone can make a mistake, people are not perfect. It is a blessing to have programs that help people turn their lives around. There is so much stacked against these men and women when they get out! Keep writing articles that helps people! So much more important than, "How to Trim a Mustache"! LOL!

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      fabulous hub

      voted up!

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      7 years ago from California

      Thanks for your comments Lifes 2nd Chances! And thank you for your work in the field too, there is so much to be done with the ever diminishing funds we have to work with!

    • Lifes 2nd Chances profile image

      Colleen Lyon 

      7 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

      A very impressive article about re-entry. I have worked in the field for 5 years with the Mental Health parolees, and know that what you say is true. Your comments and information are highly insightful. Keep up the good work.

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Kitty, thank you so much for your visit! As always - I really enjoy seeing you! Shawshank Redemption was the best movie, upsetting, yes but you make a really good point, his "release" was a death sentence because of his situation. It happens more often than most people know I get really frustrated with our "justice" system and the blatant waste of money and human potential. I appreciate your insight Kitty!

    • kittythedreamer profile image

      Kitty Fields 

      8 years ago from Summerland

      Voted up and awesome, Chatkath. Very useful tips for ex-offenders to re-enter society and get used to life outside of jail. Your words are very true when you say "bars don't disappear with release". It sort of reminds me the movie Shawshank Redemption, the old man who gets released when he's in his seventies and takes his own life because he can't handle living outside the walls of prison. How sad. Our prisons really need programs to aid these rehabilitated offenders into readjusting to normal life. Thanks so much. Well-written, as always. :)

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Hi RealHousewife! I thank you for your visit! Yes, it is unfortunate the way that the system is set up, it doesn't seem to benefit anyone, not the victim - or the offender - sometimes ex offenders take on a lifetime label making it hard to ever turn things around...very frustrating and sad.

      I appreciate your comments!

    • RealHousewife profile image

      Kelly Umphenour 

      8 years ago from St. Louis, MO

      Chatcath - what an interesting and spot on hub. I have often worried about someone I know who is in this situation. A truly good person - who would help anyone else - and my goodness - has helped anyone in their time of need. From changing a strangers tire to rescuing someone when their car breaks down. This person and personal issues in the past but I know so many people that claim to be "perfect citizens" who wouldn't give you a bite of their apple if it was the last one left in the world. You know? Doesn't seem fair.

    • profile image

      Aka Professor M 

      8 years ago

      First Chatkath let me apologize for not being as precise as I usually am in my commentary! The intensity that I felt when reading your portrayal in this hub was truly exemplary of writing excellence!

      I found it's message was a little overwhelming and in my exuberance to relate my feelings I misspelled the word "Too" adding the second o and "push" should have been the past tense Pushed!

      That I did these errors only highlights the impact that this piece had on me! I was more interested in commenting on the subject and its importance as an issue, than in the correctness that I normally adhere to as my standard in writing.

      That your piece evoked such a response from me further demonstrates the effectiveness of your writing about a subject which needs to be address by someone who knowledge of the issues is obviously first rate!

      I will be reading more to be sure ChatKath! Regards Mike!

      (Aka Professor M!) ;D

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank-you Proffesor Mike - your comments reaffirm my belief that there does exist an intelligent, sane and impartial view of justice in our world today, a subject that has always interested me. One size does not fit all and it never will. This approach is a reaction to a lack of funds(?)and an abundance of ignorance and greed. I really appreciate your truthful assessment of a very broken system where the victims are not getting any sense of relief and warehoused criminals will continue to re-offend because that is all they know.

      I certainly don't have the answers but do know that things are not working as is.

      I am so glad that you had a chance to stop by!

    • profile image

      Aka Professor M 

      8 years ago

      Too Often In Today's Society we view the Crime and the offender as one in the same, ChatKath. It is just so easy to be judgemental when one hasn't experienced any of those pressures from all the many and varied sources, of their lives.

      How quickly things can and do change, when cold hard reality comes crashing down around us, suddenly, brutally and without warning.

      I wish that each situation could be looked at as unique. The victim(s) may be found to be more, than those who were injured by the law that was broken, at the time.

      In our rush to punish those who are believed to be the perpetrators, we are forgetting that there can be many circumstances which may have a mitigating effect on the reason(s) for the crime(s) being committed.

      This Hub is exceptional in revealing the side which is too often push aside! Thanks for daring to be courageous enough too do it here!

      Regards Aka Professor M (Mike) ;D

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you Valerie, that is why I related to you so much when I read your profile and hubs, everything I read was so ironically familiar to me! Again, thank you for the inspiration. I can tell that you are very effective at what you do, probably too good because you actually care :) What a great concept (she said sarcastically).

    • valeriebelew profile image


      8 years ago from Metro Atlanta, GA, USA

      This is a big deal to me. As a substance abuse counselor, it is difficult to motivate people who see no light at the end of the tunnel. Why recover if your life is not going to get better? That is the question many probably ask. Very timely article; I enjoyed it immensely. (:v

    • Chatkath profile imageAUTHOR


      8 years ago from California

      Thank you for your interest Silva- It is a problem that quietly touches many families but I am afraid that with the economy & ever-increasing cutbacks, any beneficial social programs, especially targeting at-risk youth, will be non-existent...

    • Silva Hayes profile image

      Silva Hayes 

      8 years ago from Spicewood, Texas

      A motivational hub that really holds my interest and highlights an issue that we don't read or hear much about. Thank you.


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