By Vivett Dukes
The prefix “re” indicates a “do over”. It implies that something that once was and, for a gamut of reasons, became no longer, is now back in its original or rightful post. That’s what reentry is like when a formerly incarcerated person returns to life on the outside — except there are many barriers that can impede the reestablishment and elevation of their station in life.
The process of reentry needs to be reinvented. We could begin with the deeply broken criminal justice system not sending our loved ones away to prison in the first place for these enormously long amounts of time. Long prison sentences play a direct hand in this disconnection from society that so many must face when they are released from prison and are back at home in their community. While men, women, and children are languishing in prison cells, the world continues to turn. Now upon their return, what are they to do without the skills needed to live viable, meaningful, productive, fulfilling lives? Who’s picking up that mantle?
For example, being removed from society for decades without access to the technology that is such an integral part of our society can often render one traumatized and overwhelmed. Just think about how much technology has impacted the ways in which we communicate from 1999 to 2019. Smartphones and social media changed the game. Now imagine explaining how to use a Smartphone. Even given my profession as a teacher, I’ve never had to teach anyone how to use a Smartphone.
Nowadays, it’s as if babies come out the womb knowing how to swipe left and search for their favorite videos on YouTube. But imagine being 30, 40, 50, even 60 years with the skill set less than that of an infant, yet with the personal and societal real world expectations of an adult. The chasm is great. The stress even greater.
This, ladies and gentleman, is one side of the face of reentry — a face that reflects the experiences of too many returning citizens coming home from the war zone of mass incarceration.
This post was written by am