Re-entry is hard and it gets complicated for a recovering addict who has to not only adjust to life on the outside, but who has to do the work everyday to fight addiction. Drug use is a factor that can cause them to reoffend.
Recidivism rates are high enough even without and drug use. It’s one of the reasons we encourage you to connect as much as possible with your loved ones while in prison. They need to know there’s someone who cares. They also need to know they have something to look forward to when they’re released. Sounds simple. It’s not, but you have to remain strong so your loved one can be strong.
It starts in prison
It’s no secret that inmates have plenty of access to drugs. For most, drugs are a way to cope – to forget about their surroundings and mentally escape their prison cell. There are addiction programs in prison, but some experts point out that prison substance abuse programs aren’t effective enough because prison just aren’t therapeutic places.
Prisoners are chained and shackled. The food is substandard. There’s violence and that creates a lot of stress. It’s not an environment where discussing past trauma that has perhaps led to drug use feels safe.
If an inmate is successful in a drug treatment program in prison, they need support to sustain their recovery when they are released.
When they get home
When your loved one returns home, there are four very important things he needs. Without any one of these four things, stress can develop causing a return to drug use and increasing his chances of committing another crime.
- A job
- A safe place to live
- Support from friends and family
- Counseling and peer group support
So, what can you do?
A job, a safe place to live, support from friends and family, and counseling and peer group support would be easy for you and me. We’re used to navigating life on the ‘outside’, but your loved one isn’t. We also don’t carry the stigma of being an ex-con. For a newly released prisoner who’s trying to stay clean, it’s just hard.
There are five things you can do to make sure your loved one stays clean when they get home:
- Help your loved one network. Help them arrange job interviews with anyone you know who may be hiring. More companies are willing to hire former inmates now because they are trying to be more inclusive.
- Provide a place to live even if it’s only temporary. A bedroom of his own is perfect.
- Provide financial help, even if it’s a loan. Find things he can do to help around the house and pay him.
- Give him rides to job interviews, peer or support group meetings. Don’t allow him to stress about how to get where he needs to go.
- Help him connect with family and friends who can also support him. You’ll need support too.
Where can I get help?
There are a number of organizations that provide help for former inmates. Help for Felons is an organization that is devoted to helping felons return to the workforce, find housing and other needs by providing up to date and relevant information. They provide information about jobs, training, loans and grants as well as job training. They provide a list of re-entry programs by state from Help for Felons.
Starting over is hard, but it’s possible if with a plan, perseverance and support. It’s important to connect with your loved one while he’s in prison to start making a plan for when he’s released. Your support and encouragement can help the pull of addiction.
Just remember that many others have succeeded in making a successful re-entry and have stayed clean throughout the process. But they can’t do it without your love and support.