There’s nothing a person can’t handle if they have the confidence, support and persistence. I truly believe that, although when returning from prison after a 17-month sentence, I found it to be extremely difficult. Despite earning my Bachelor’s degree in English in 2008, it was still hard to find a job after federal prison. During my two year pre-trial, I knew that obtaining a job afterwards would be tough. It’s so tempting to give up, but how would an ex-felon or anyone else for that matter, keep from quitting?
I remember having the desire to return to prison camp because of the hardship. At least in camp I wouldn’t have to deal with rent, bills, or demanding employers. I tried everything I could think of. I even wrote and published a book called Subprime Felon: Inside Federal Prison Camp. Although I value my accomplishment, I was disappointed because I thought it would bring me freedom and happiness. Needless to say, it didn’t. Finally, I realized that I had more freedom outside of prison than I did inside of prison. My challenge was finding a way to diminish my depression and frustration of returning to society. I needed to keep a level head and find a solution to alleviate the hardship of returning home. If you’re like me and need a couple of methods to survive, then here is a list of coping mechanisms.
Developing a Great Diet
At Herlong Prison Camp, I was able to eat as many as four meals a day, but that’s not always possible in the real world. Whether or not you eat once a day or four times a day a targeted diet is need. For better focus and mental clarity, try a diet high in fiber and protein. Also, to minimize depression and anxiety, I recently discovered that a diet high in potassium can calm over-stressed nerves.
Looking for employment is more than just putting in job applications and hoping to get the right job. What you really need is a game plan. For example, If you’re applying for a low waged job and are overqualified, avoid putting in high levels of education on your resume. It’s typical for someone coming home from prison to jump at the first job that is offered in order to satisfy their PO’s. This is understandable as well as sensible, but it isn’t a long-term financial solution.
I believe that newly released inmates should set time aside every day to explore their options such as self-employment or higher paying jobs. Even if you already have a job, it doesn’t hurt to apply for a higher paying job. Yes, looking for a quality job with a felony record may be hell, but if you believe a higher salary is needed, then stay confident and persistent in your quest. Part of your game plan should be researching sites like Indeed.com, using their search bar and entering in “jobs that pay $35,000” or more. Another tip is when searching on Indeed or similar sites, be sure to narrow down the search results. My normal search might look like “English major, $35,000, -sales, -management.” By putting “-sales” this eliminates any positions that have the keyword or phrase “sales,” which usually prevents me from seeing jobs with sales involved. Lastly, having someone review and/or write your resume and/or cover letter will help you to stand out from the crowd.
Building and Maintaining Relationship
Transitioning is easier when you have the support of a community. A community provides a felon job leads, counseling and the motivation needed to keep moving forward. Although some relationship will be lost throughout time, it’s essential for an ex-felon to focus on forging and maintaining relationships. This would also be the time to eliminate and avoid destructive or fruitless relationships with toxic people. Those types of people add nothing to your life except unnecessary stress.
Move to a Bigger City
The amount of opportunities for ex-felons depends on their residential area. I’ve learned the hard way that jobs in a city like Sacramento are just hard to find. Obtaining a quality job was difficult because of my criminal record and restaurant history, but when I moved to Los Angeles, things changed. I was able to reduce my time spent working in restaurants and begin working as a production assistant for films. I also worked as a background actor. Yes, these are low paying jobs, but my goal is become a Hollywood screenwriter. The experience I receive just by being on set is phenomenal!
Dealing With Depression and Frustration
There’s no magic pill or solution to dealing with the depression and frustration that a ex-felon will experience when they return home. The trick for ex-felons is to understand that they have done everything in their power, legally, to put themselves in the best possible position. Everything will work itself out in time. I truly understand the frustration of waiting for everything to work itself out. However, I constantly remind myself that if there was a better idea, I would do it. This is why a game plan is highly valuable to newly released inmate. When you have exhausted all of your options, you must believe that what you’ve done is sufficient and that the results will manifest in time.
I hope this helps someone. At the time of this post, I’m still struggling to have the life that I want. However, I see things coming together. If nothing in this article works for you, then the only advice I have left is to keep your head up and never quit.