Ex-Cons Share Whether They Found Prison Rehabilitating

"Ex convicts of Reddit, did you find prison rehabilitating? Why or why not? What would you change about the system if you could?" –– This was today's burning question from Redditor RamenIsMyKyptonite, and it's a doozy.

According to the National Institute of Justice, about two-thirds (67.8 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested within three years of release. Within five years of release, about three-quarters (76.6 percent) of released prisoners were rearrested.

Clearly the culture within the prison system needs to be changed, as these former inmates can attest.

"Did 4 years..."

Did 4 years in a maximum security penitentiary in Canada.

I don't think the institution itself or its programs had any influence on my rehabilitation, but I decided for myself I was never going back.

They forced us to take certain programs as part of our "correctional plan". Such as an anger management course, a course for drug dealers to tell them to not sell drugs, etc. (All of which were a waste of time imo)

You can get your grade 12 education, which I did.

The most beneficial thing that was occasionally offered in certain institutions (which is no longer available) was you could do certain trades such as carpentry or drywall, and the hours could go towards an apprenticeship on the outside. It is a huge shame that it was discontinued.

If I could change anything I would implement more programs of that nature, that taught skills that could be applied to the outside world and benefit inmates when they are released.

Parole, and living in a halfway house on release are both extremely difficult things to navigate and are imo designed to make parolees reoffend. You are thrown in a house with other convicts, prohibited from associating with any person with a criminal record, which in itself is paradoxical. Any time you leave the halfway house you must tell them exactly where you will be, and must call from a land line (no cellphone) every hour to check in and prove you are where you claim to be. Most people don't own a house phone anymore, and pay phones are almost nonexistent, which makes this very difficult. You can be sent back for the smallest infraction, such as not doing your daily chore at the halfway house (vacuuming, mopping, etc).

You are forced to find immediate employment or can be sent back. Finding a job after being inside for that long can be a very daunting task, especially when certain parole officers demand to meet your employer or meet you at work to prove you're actually employed there.

Overall more programs on the outside to help get parolees jobs, perhaps pre-apprenticeship programs and an example, would be hugely beneficial.

Most ex-cons who rehabilitate do it with their own determination and conscious decision to leave that lifestyle behind. I don't feel the system itself and resources within it play an impactful part in that.


"He went to prison three different times..."

This is not my story, this is my dads.

He went to prison three different times, but he only counts it as one, since he was only really out for less than a month each time he got out, excepting the last one of course. That's a different story.

The last time he went to prison was at Folsom Prison near Sacramento. Yes, from the song. His cellmate was an older man, though, my dad remarked that now, he's older than his cellmate was at the time. My dad was a bit of an arrogant prick and he was bragging about times he got away with some drug smuggling job. They were playing a game of chess and his cellmate just sighed.

"Boy, if you ever listen to a word I say, listen to this. You're still young, you got your whole life ahead of you. Me? I'm here for life. Do you understand that? I'm never getting out of this prison. And when I die, they're going to bury me out in that graveyard with a wooden marker over top my body. I burned all my bridges and now there's no one left to give a shit when I die. You're still a kid, but I was your age when I was put in here. Stop being a dumbass and do something with your life if you don't want to be buried underneath a prison. Now move your fucking piece so we can play some chess."

He was wrong about one thing though. Ive seen my dad cry exactly twice in my life. The second time was last year when we visited Folsom prison and my dad found out that his cellmate, the man who changed his life, passed away years ago. My dad cried over his death, and was probably the only person who did. If that man hadn't verbally slapped my dad across the face, I wouldn't have been born.

So yeah, prison can be rehabilitating, but I'm not sure if it's the system that's responsible.


"A lot of hanging out..."

I haven't been to prison, just in and out of juvie and jail for years. I don't know what was supposed to be rehabilitating. With a lot of the psychological help in juvie they had high staff turnover so there was never really consistency and progress. A lot of drug programming at both levels was just kind of like DARE stuff. And really basic. I've been in a juvie class where another kid was correcting the 'teacher's' info. Jails mostly have AA, don't really like AA.

A lot of hanging out and playing games and entertaining yourself. It rehabilitated some of my basketball skills (though some of that gets a little dirty for an actual game). It rehabilitated my ability to read books.

After the first couple of times going to juvie or jail never concerned me. Once you've figured the place out a bit then you can just hang out.

I have an uncle who had custody of me as a teen and he invested in me. He rehabilitated me, the system just took me and held me for periods of time but he did the real work. He got me competent and consistent mental health care, we found a counselor who I connected with. I got my meds sorted out. I got consistent and competent substance help. I got a good education and directed towards a career. He got himself help in how to parent me. He got me to be a regular human by about 21.

With greater funding and a change of attitude I think the system could implement all of that stuff far more successfully. And I think that a big focus on juveniles and young adults would help too. And stop being obsessed with the act of locking people up.


"Needless to say..."

Did 2 years in 2002. 1 year in a for profit regional jail and 1 year minimum security state prison.

Not rehabilitating in the sense they made any effort to rehab us but I did go straight to stay out of there.

I was 18 and breaking into businesses for the thrill. Hardcore self destruction. Thought my life was over until I saw how worse the other convicts were. The only services jail offers are GED, church and AA/NA so any rehabbing is done there. The discipline isn't like the military where they attempt to teach you honor or anything. Its just stand for count and clean your area once a day.

I already had a GED but took it again out of boredom. Prison is a lot better. Counselors teach community college courses and you have a job. Came out with 9 credits.

Probation sucks. Get downtown twice a week, don't have a shy bladder, keep a job, go to meetings even though I didn't have a drug problem. High stress and a lot of us get indefinite probation which averages 5 years.

But I did good. I'm white and middle class so I was able to blend back into society easy. Waited tables and did community college. My PO let me off probation in two years so I could go to university and ultimately hardly missed a beat. Happily married now with three kids, a mortgage and a career I don't hate.

Honestly the biggest motivation for me was watching WB shows in jail and seeing them all go to college. It was like when Mogli saw other humans and left the jungle on his own. Needless to say I had an unstable childhood.


"I wouldn't say..."

I wouldn't say it was very rehabilitating, though it did make me never want to go back. The worst thing they never tell you is that the COs can do pretty much whatever they want to you. You don't really have "due process" once you're inside, they can send you to solitary confinement whenever they want, move you to the cell of someone who hates you and look the other way as you get beat up, and nothing will happen to them for it. Most of us were more scared of the COs than we were of each other, though of course there were some good COs.

Specific punishments and such vary from prison to prison, but the worst one I always dreaded was "Dog breath." If someone in our cell did something the CO didn't like, they'd come in, order us to sit with our backs to the wall, sometimes cuffed...and then they'd bring in their K9 Officer to search the cell.

Except...well, she'd search the cell, but spend a long-ass time giving us a sniff-over too - with her mouth right on our nose, panting heavily. It was absolutely foul. One guy cursed at a CO one day, and the next day our cell was searched, and he spent 15 minutes getting breathed and slobbered on by these dogs until he was gagging and retching. Complaining about the smell was a surefire way to get more of it.

Nothing to do about it either. What are you going to do, complain that they searched your cell? That'd be a good way to earn another K9 visit the next day.


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