The things that we go through while incarcerated is hard to explain. Only those who have experienced it knows. Its like a woman who has given birth to a child, a man just cannot understand no matter how hard he tries. The trauma that we go through. Now we are pushed out into the world, where we say we want to be, but the question is, do we know how? We say that we do. Then when the time comes the truth will reveal itself. I cannot blame those who struggle, because the system is designed for us to fail. Let me tell you my story of when I was released after serving almost 10 years in prison.
It has been almost a decade, and when I arrive back home everything is different. My family has moved away, buildings are no longer there that once were there, and new big buildings have been built. So it is like moving to a new city that you have never been before. They gave me no money and the little money I made from prison jobs I could not save any because I still had to survive. So I enter society again with nothing but the clothes on my back. I look around, I smell the air. It is a relief, but I feel the anxiety building up within me quickly. Why? It is the unknown, yes, that is what we fear the most, isn't it? The things that we cannot control, the things we do not know, and the things that we just don't understand.
My sister just dropped me off at the halfway house. This is new, but its not. Its just another form of imprisonment. They tell you were you will sleep, there are still bunk beds, they tell you when you can leave, and you can still be written shots (incident reports) and returned to a more secured facility (i.e., prison), if you escape or walk away you can be charged with escape. So in truth it is no different, except you get the benefit of not having a fence around you, guards and the such, but you still have many eyes on you. If this was a movie, the creepy sound would always be playing.
I was released just before Memorial Day so the parole officer placed me on house arrest for the weekend, that is a three day weekend. "But, I have no clothes, no toothpaste, no deodorant, no nothing". I explained in a polite fashion, but it fell on deaf ears, because he did not care. Frustrated I used the phone to call a friend and told him what was going on. He told me not to worry about it, that he would take care of it. I got off the phone and sat in the house all day, having freedom, but none at all. I could not have anyone over, nor could I go anywhere. At least in prison I did not have this problem, I thought to myself. I could wash myself, change my clothes, brush my teeth, have visits, or visit other people who were also incarcerated, and go outside. I think this can be worse than prison. Isn't it suppose to get better?
We had to attend AA and NA meetings, so the next morning I got up and went across the street to the other halfway house where the AA and NA meetings are held. Once over, I began walking back like I was required to do. A couple of other individuals from the halfway house was huddled over something on the porch. They turned and looked at me "How did you get a package and you just got here?" I did not respond. I walked over and seen this large box and took it to my room. of course my roommate, which more akin to a cellie, was in the room. Like most white people in prison, nosey as hell. By the way, I am white too, and I know its not just white people who are nosey, but this is a script from my life. I opened up the box and inside was 2 pairs of jeans, 2 shirts, 2 packages of underwear and socks, 2 deodorants, 2 packages of soap, a cell phone (already set up), a wallet, and a note. I opened the wallet and there was 2 fresh crisp hundred dollar bills in it. I then read the note, and it told me to call him.
I picked up the cell phone and his number was already programmed in it. I called and he answered. He explained to me that in order for people to succeed after incarceration is if they have somewhere to go, and resources, which includes money. He said the system is designed for us to fail, but when you have support you have a chance to succeed. It is on you with what you do with it. I will give you $200 a week for 3 months. By then you must be able to fend for yourself or at least making sufficient progress. Then we hung up.
The people were envious of me, because they destroyed their bridges. Misery loves company right? So here I am with my new freedom, or so that is what they call it. I continued through the weekend and ordering from Happy's Pizza. They made the guys even more envious except for one guy who had his own money. We began to talk more and more, and we started ordering out to eat and hanging out when he was not at work. To be honest some of the other guys at the halfway house was a little weird. If you read my article called "Misunderstood" then you know that I view the word "weird" as being misunderstood and different. the truth is everyone does not get along in life, but that does not mean that we cannot be cordial to one another.
The holiday weekend is over, and its time to start getting things accomplished. I get to the bus station and head to town to get my State Id and other paperwork. Hmmm. This is a new building, where is it at? Okay I finally figured that out, because another felon at the halfway house told me. I get there, the building is massive and I get lost, so I have to ask for help. The anxiety picks up. I am not sure I can even find my way back to the halfway house, but really its all in my mind. The problem is I have been programmed to depend on the government for everything. I am still reeking of the ninja's poison. They did nothing to prepare me for all of this. I was locked up since I was a minor and now I am 27 years old.
Each day is something similar to this, where I have to live in a house full of felons, ride a bus full of felons, work at a place full of felons, and yet I have a condition of parole that says I am not allowed to be around anyone known to be a felon. Hmm. How is this suppose to work. It did not take long for the parole officer to call me back into his office and admonish me for being around felons. I had enough at this point. I stood up and put my hands together and pushed them out towards him. He asked me what I was doing. I told him I am ready to go back to prison that I was done. He said "what are you talking about?" This is too much, you just want to violate me anyway, so just do it and let me go back. I have more rights in prison." I countered. "I am not trying to send you back" he said still sitting in his chair behind the desk.
I am still standing there, unmoving, except I put my hands down to my side. "You have your foot so far down my throat I cannot even breathe. When my dad came to visit me I had to have permission. Fine. You said I had to pick one spot and stay there, and I had seven hours to visit. I cannot stay at a restaurant for seven hours Ill be arrested. If I go somewhere else, because he had to travel 9 hours to see me, then we can't go eat. How is this fair? Either let up, because I am trying, or send me back. I don't care which it is." I rebutted. He looked at me for awhile and said okay. I left his office and continued on.
Each day was a day that I questioned my purpose, each day was a day that I told myself that I did not ask to be brought into this world. I had many people who loved me, or so they said, but only my dad really really showed it. "You're either with me or you ain't, sometimes I feel the whole world is fake". I even felt like I was fake most days, because I did not even know who I was. I grew up in prison, I learned almost everything from prison, this is where I learned what to do and not to do, how to be a man. I was surrounded by lifers, and the constant oppression of the government in a prison setting. Each day I wanted to give up, and I was diagnosed as having depression for over 2 years straight. It was a struggle to convince myself that there was a reason, I just did not know what it was.
So here I am, trying to make it in a society that I do not even know or understand anymore. After 6 months I moved from Michigan to Tennessee to finish my parole with my dad and my aunt who were both elderly. The change was even more different. The way people talk, act, and move is different in the North compared to the South. It was a culture shock, and so this added to the anxiety that I was under. I was seeing many doctors and psychiatrists. Like Halsey said in her song, "everywhere I go I have a million people dying to meet me, but I am still alone, and when you meet me you will wish you never did". Although I am not famous like she, and I don't have a million people dying to meet me, I still felt like I was alone. I had to way to properly express myself. I was still tainted by the that ninja called institutionalization even after a couple of years.
I was doing everything I could to do the right thing. I was following all of the rules according to what I was told, but one day I went in to the parole office to sign my paperwork to be removed from parole. Instead, the parole officer had me arrested on my very last day! WTH! I was put into the county jail and went through my extradition hearing. the judge ordered my release if they did not pick me up within 30 days. The 30 days came and passed and they locked me away to where I could not reach out to anyone. No one would help me. That Ninja found me again. He knew that I was not down yet, I was still up for another round. So he took another series of attacks against me. His goal is to make me submit. Why do I have to submit when I am already doing everything that I am told I am suppose to do? Doesn't he know that the price of conformity can be very high? What is his goal? Why does he keep attacking me? Why me? Yes, these are things that went through my mind everyday, but I kept standing up for another round, even if I was dazed.
There was a sense of wanting to be accepted, doesn't everyone? At least these were my thoughts, but at times we try to justify our own thinking patterns. Sometimes what we think is logical and sometimes it is not. Then we have to ask ourselves, what and whom defines what is logical? No wonder why we as a people are so confused. There is no wonder why when we converse with someone else it generally ends up so hectic. How many times I have heard individuals say "I have to get them before they get me". This statement is used in more than one aspect, but its importance is something we should not over look. Just like I spoke about in "Misunderstood" we all have our own 'personal language', and we often get caught up in this 'language barrier". This is no different when it comes from men and women. I have found that people do not generally like someone else being able to predict them, but when people can't we feel that they are wrong. We have a habit of self-sabatoging our own selves and then we wallow in despair asking "why me?"
Here I am with my new found freedom not knowing how to do much of anything. I was arrested shortly after I turned 18 for a crime I committed while a juvenile. I served almost 10 years and came out knowing nothing about life. I was given no tools to succeed, and did not know how to succeed. My social skills were severely damaged to a point that learning from this age is difficult, but not impossible. It is no wonder why so many people just want to say "forget it" and give up, but we do not fail until we have given up. The question has arisen lately among states about abolishing or amending the 13th Amendment which allows involuntary servitude A.K.A. "imprisonment" A.K.A. "legal slavery". Some states are taking step to say that prisoner must be paid minimum wage and they have to pay bills for housing, lights, etc. The reasoning behind this is to help teach those incarcerated about these responsibilities because so many do not know when they are released, especially when our government hands out time like candy.
I moved to Tennessee to live with my dad and my aunt. My dad's hope was that living in a new area, and with different culture would do me some good. The change was definitely different. I noticed that down in the south the people are more friendly, and people was looking at me, watching me as I passed by. My first instinct was "why are you plotting on me". The sad thing is that was not even the case. Yet, the poison from the Ninja called institutionalization still runs rampant through my veins. Even to th