Planning for Life After Lockup

By Eric McCaa

From PHN Issue 37, Summer 2018

Imagine you have just been released from prison. What do you plan to do with your freedom? Finally eat some real food? Buy some Jordans? Get laid? Engage in your other favorite past-times? And then go report in at the parole office? If this sounds like a good parole plan, you obviously did not spend enough time planning for your future. Maybe what you need is to devise an effective parole plan to enhance your chances for success.

The faulty parole plan that I mentioned above was one that I used many times. I even changed the order and reported to the PO first, but I always ended up with a parole violation, or a new term. Failure to plan is planning to fail. As convicted felons, the odds are stacked against us. If you are a high-school dropout, woman, or a minority, the opportunity for legal and financial advancement are already adversely affected, but there are ways to level the playing field and put the odds back in your favor.

Many prisons have pre-release classes and re-entry services available. If your institution offers such programs, take advantage of the opportunity. If not, check your prison’s library for resource guides that often provide the addresses of transitional housing and re-entry services in your area. Residential drug programs are also a good place to build a foundation once you are released. Due to the demand for these services, there usually are waiting lists, so start writing to them when you’re about a year to the house. Many have classes for life skills, computers, parenting, and resume building, while also providing you with a safe, clean, and drug-free environment to reside, oftentimes at little or no cost to you.

If you do not have a GED, make an effort to get it while you’re still incarcerated. If you do have a GED, sign up for vocational or college courses. This will optimize your time by turning unproductive time into a constructive endeavor. A transitional re-entry plan is also an excellent way to plan for your release. You know your weaknesses, but you have the power to correct your faults. Below is an example of how I have developed my re-entry plan. Each plan is different, and you may not have the same goals I do, but you can use this as a template to create your own.

My Transition Plan

First Day Goals:

  1. Report to the parole office to discuss parole conditions and any issues pertaining to the expectations of a successful parole
  2. Abstain from drugs and alcohol
  3. Check into transitional housing
  4. If I have the option, call family

First Week Goals:

  1. Obtain a social security card
  2. Obtain a library card for free from my local library
  3. Obtain a bus pass
  4. Register with organizations that provide help with employment
  5. Update my resume or ask someone to help me create one
  6. Apply for assistance (health insurance, food stamps, etc.)
  7. Continue to try and not use drugs and alcohol
  8. Locate and attend an Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous meeting
  9. Obtain a cellphone
  10. Attend church or any other type of community gathering
  11. Visit family

First Month Goals:

  1. Stay within the structured program of the transitional housing program
  2. Obtain a part-time job
  3. Continued participation in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous
  4. Open a bank account
  5. Obey all laws and report to parole officer as scheduled
  6. Meet other positive people
  7. Continue living alcohol- and drug-free
  8. Be punctual in work and school

Six Month Goals:

  1. Continue following the program rules of transitional housing
  2. Report to parole office as required
  3. Excel at work and at school
  4. Maintain sobriety
  5. Stay active in the church
  6. Do volunteer work in the community

One Year Goals:

  1. Be an exemplary resident of the transitional home
  2. Obey all laws and comply with parole conditions
  3. Continue participation in recovery support groups
  4. Stay active in church
  5. Help others

Five Year Goals:

  1. Obtain a stable residence
  2. Get off parole
  3. Obtain a degree
  4. Get married or engaged
  5. Continue church involvement
  6. Be a productive, respectable member of society
  7. Make my family proud

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