I spend a lot of time researching what is happening in our prison system, determined to find ways to not only help the public understand what it means to be in prison, but also to find ways that I can help, not only Jamie, but other people who have family and loved ones who are inside. What happens when an inmate gets out of prison largely depends on the support he has while still in prison. If that support is minimal, and there is no one to help him through the times when they have been abused by guards or giving little food and medical care. If other inmates have traumatized him and there is no help, who do they turn to? How do they learn how to turn their lives around so they don’t end up back inside again?
I have read many articles about the percentage of inmates – the recidivism rate – who go back. They don’t have the education they need to support themselves, and they don’t feel good about who they are. Many want to be able to get jobs but they don’t even know how to fill out a job application. They may be adults but that doesn’t mean they have the experience to live a life that we, on the outside, would call normal. Do they have any days where the word “Inmate” doesn’t feel as though it is imprinted on their forehead? Until the laws are changed, when an employer sees the box checked that asks if they were ever convicted of a felony, they know they won’t get hired anyway. What kind of job does an ex-felon get if they don’t even have a GED because the prison kept them on a level where education wasn’t a possibility. If they apply for higher education and the college see that same box checked they will most likely get turned down regardless of their abilities. And in Jamie’s case, he has epilepsy. He can’t do manual labor jobs dealing with machinery or even get a driver’s license. His survival of his time has not been easy. Preparation for the rest of the time in his life will be a challenge.