Ex-Cons With Long Sentences Reveal What The Days Leading Up To Release Were Like
It's just like The Shawshank Redemption, right?
Being shut in prison for a long time must be incredibly hard. And then as the time comes up to be let out, how would it feel? When your new reality has become being an inmate, what is the next step like?
Here were some of the answers.
Anger For Doing Their JobsGiphy
I did 15 yrs 9 mths. Got paroled, and I didn't want anyone to know. Too many prisoners get flopped by the parole board (I did a six-month flop), and they get angry at the guys who get paroled. Guys will fight you just to try and get your parole taken, or some will see it at a chance to steal ("Hey, he's going home. He don't need that, and he sure ain't gonna fight for it."). I gave most of my stuff to lifers/long-timers who didn't have family to send them money. So, the last few days were really spent trying to take up the boredom of no way to pass the time. Didn't really work about work, already had a place to live (I'm one of the fortunate ones), just worked at keeping my head down and getting out of the gate.
I did 2 years, 6 months, 19 days for a violent crime I committed as a dumb 21 yr old. In the months leading up, I was basically walking on eggshells trying my best to make sure I didn't get into any fights, or any sort of trouble for that matter, that would get me put into solitary and could extend my time.
The night of I was just giving all my belongings away to friends: extra sneakers and clothes, soap and shampoo, polos for visits, cassette tapes, cooking utensils, food, books, etc. Everyone was grateful but definitely an odd experience to go through. Some of the younger dudes messed with me a little and roughed me up, more like in a friendly wrestling way and not actually fighting, but there was some added aggression in there as I could tell they were pretty jealous. I also made my last phone call from the in house phone booth to make sure my ride was going to be ready the next day.
That morning I woke up and was just like wait, this is really happening? Gave away any last minute stuff and said my goodbyes, traded a few addresses, and then was led down to the transport building for final preparations. After changing into street clothes, I sat there from 7:30-10:45, all the while with the guards telling me nobody was there to pick me up (I damn well knew my mom was there) and I had to wait until they showed up.
Finally they said my ride came, put me in the van and took me to the main admin building where I literally just walked up and through the front doors. I remember looking around like, really, I'm just allowed to walk right out?
Idk how to explain it, just a crazy thought to process after being locked up for those 2.5 years and being ordered to do everything and then suddenly, just go ahead, walk right out.
Got out, walked right up to my mom's car (she had been there waiting since 7 am, screw you COs for that last ploy), gave her one of the more emotional hugs of my life and then got in the car and she drove me out of there.
This October will be 8 years since my release. Not a day goes by that I don't think about it in some way.
I did a year in rehab and met a guy who did 25 years in prison for murder. I asked him a lot about what it was like inside and getting out and what it was like now that he was out.
He said he felt scared when he was getting out and kind of sad, because of all the people he was leaving. He'd been in that specific prison for over 8 years and knew almost everyone and had some close friendships that he missed. He felt lonely after he left and was actually glad that his halfway house was a live-in, year long rehab, if felt familiar to him. He did have a lot of trouble getting work though.
I asked my friend this since we are sitting at a diner. He said, you get excited and depressed at the same time. Excited for the freedom, depressed because you will have a hard time getting a job. He had been sentenced for 18 serving just shy of 13. He's doing well for himself and works on hot water heaters for a living.
Paraphrased from an old friend of mine: Excited but also scared and anxious. Partly because he was convinced that somehow they'd reverse his parole, partly because he was terrified he wouldn't be able to readjust. Was also afraid his relationships with his kids wouldn't be able to recover. Overall until he actually got out, he was more stressed than excited. But the last few hours, when he realized he was actually getting out, he said those were the longest hours of his life. Simultaneously happy but also thinking "OK they decided I get to go, why the heck can't I leave already?!" Said it was like taking a plane to go on your dream vacation, but the flight takes forever, there's no movie and you forgot to bring a book.
Fix The System
You should read The Prison Diaries by Jeffery Archer, it' s a real eye opener. Some of the long termers get released gradually back into society, but they struggle to deal with basic things such as using a supermarket -they've had so long where every decision is made for them, making their own decisions suddenly becomes too much to deal with.
Your instincts are to lock bad people up and throw away the key but for many prisoners this is counterproductive and they spend the rest of their lives costing the taxpayer instead of contributing to society.
The prison system is broken.
Dreaming Ain't Livin', Kid
I did 5 years. By that time I made it to a minimum security prison. That means a jail with no walls and no locks. You could easily escape if you wanted but you would just be an idiot too. The days dragged on slow. I couldn't sleep for the last few weeks. I was anxious and nervous. I had plans to have all types of sex and eat all types of food but none of my plans panned out the way I imagined they would.
I was stoked. You know that sense of euphoria you got on Christmas morning as a kid? It's like that, but it lasts a good year after you get out too.
Then life sets in and you realize it's hard to do anything as a convict. Most people just go back to prison, I managed to land a good job in the oil field and stay free.
I had all my tattoos removed, made sure nobody I used to know knew my number or where I was, then basically just hit the restart button. Most of the people you meet in prison are toxic, gotta disassociate with them and it makes things much easier.
I did 11 months, was a year but got out a little early. A lot of guys told me there was a lot of anxiety and the weirdest thing was being able to wake up, leave their house and go to bed at whatever time. Being so dependent on the government for so long and then just being released all of a sudden to take care of your own was a lot even for a lot of adults. Most of them being introduced to probation/parole so there are added hoops to your life as far as getting a job and doing everyday things.
When I was released I had a lot of things lined up for me like going back to school and had a good place to live, so when I got out I was ready to be out. The days leading up were very long days just watching the clock knowing you're finally going to be out in the real world. I was really nervous knowing I could have not gotten out on that day, but lucky for me I was and have got back into school since.
Getting Around To More LifeGiphy
My husband is in prison and thinking about his transition home is always kind of nerve wracking.
He is going to need so much. A car, a job, clothes, personal items, a phone, etc. So now that he is halfway through his sentence we have started talking about saving, and he's begun to save money from his paychecks.
We also won't be living together right away because we have never lived together outside of prison, and we have to ease into being around each other for more than 9 hours a week.
He's really looking forward to getting out but I see him interact with all of his buddies and I know leaving them will be hard for him.
He is lucky enough to have a job lined up when he gets out but u can't imagine how hard it would be for someone who doesn't. 15 years on the inside doesn't look so good on a resume.
County Without Sun
I did 14 months in a county jail. The days were long. I played a lot of cards, chess and I made everyone laugh (including the co's) Honestly, jail saved my life.
The days leading to processing out was weird to say the least. I hadn't seen the sun in soooo long. The weirdest thing was using silverware. I went to eat at a Denny's that morning and my eggs tasted like metal. I didn't know what the fuck and then it dawned on me. I've only been using plastic utensils.
A New World
You go in as a person people around you know. after doing a stretch, even if you keep in contact when you get out your whole family is strangers. There has been births, deaths, divorces, etc. You don't know these people anymore. Wondering what family life will be like was a thought on my mind.
I honestly can't remember much about the days leading up to release, I do remember the bus ride back home though. I've never felt that unreasonably happy. i was smiling like an idiot the entire ride, which was substantial. It was a surreal experience. I still feel the buzz of freedom years later after shit tons of probation and rehab. sometimes I'm in a grocery store and it feels crazy to be completely free and anonymous.
A Careless LifeGiphy
I came out completely different socially. I used to love crowds, people, festivals, outside concerts, etc. I came out afraid of those things. My crime was non-sexual, non-violent. I would stay at home in complete silence for days. I had never gotten into any trouble before or since. And I've never been the same.
People don't understand prison in America. They think they do, but they don't. They really think there's all this education, good food, and heath care...But prisoners can't complain. There isn't ANY of that. Not in a real sense. Like you would recognize it. Rehabilitation? Thats a joke. No really...like it's a joke, the running joke with the people who work there. They just want you to shut up, stop bothering them, so they can finish their blah blah story. Oh, there's someone having a heart attack? We'll call the infirmary as soon as the game is over.
4 years. It was surreal & scary. It didn't feel real the few days before getting out, when I found out my release was coming a few months earlier than I'd originally thought. I thought it was all a mistake. I felt so used to being there I thought they'd tell me it was a mixup & I must stay.
Even the next few months at home I thought they'd arrest me & say it was a mistake & I must return to prison. I was overwhelmed & scared to go in public, out with friends, etc. I always thought something would happen to make me go back.
All the choices in stores freaked me out after having so little choice for so long. I remember standing in a lotion aisle for 30 minutes wondering if I needed lotion for dry skin, aloe, extra moisture, scented, etc. I gave my list to my uncle & asked him to get my things while I sat in the car.
The last few days in prison though were just surreal. I was excited, but cautious about getting my hopes up even though it was a sure thing. You're expected to give all your things away. I did but again was scared I'd have to stay & my stuff would be gone. I was very institutionalized.
Andy Dufresne Moments
I think The Shashank Redemption represents it very well.
After so many years in prison you become institutionalized. It's like being born again but without adults to guide you, protect you and take care of you . You're on your own, you have responsibilities and the world doesn't help you. Get busy living or get busy dying.
Breaking up is hard to do.
And when you get the law involved, it's even worse. But sometimes people don't need the law's help to make things overcomplicated, they just have a grand ole time making that happen themselves.
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