Inside the Mind of a Felon
It’s important to remember that a conviction is something that happens to you and that it doesn’t have to define you as a person. Even to this day – I still call myself a felon – even though I am so much more than that. Not everyone understands why I do this – and while it used to be out of the mindset the justice system pushed me to have about myself – now I do it because I have no problem admitting to what helped shape the defiant and helpful person I am today along with all of my accomplishments.
It’s also important to remember that one of the worst things about trying to change your life is how frustrating the whole process can be, but good things do NOT come easy – not for the majority of us anyway.
I went for years thinking that my record made me worthless in the eyes of society before realizing that I really did still have something to contribute that would be helpful and meaningful somehow. The stamp of society made it more difficult to remember this as a fact, but I eventually pulled through to that conclusion after a lot of introspection.
The social perception that I wasn’t worthy of a job depressed and infuriated me in the early years during probation and even after successful completion of my sentence, things didn’t seem to begin to turn up. I couldn’t find a job to save my life, and my roommates were never quite comfortable with me – but I couldn’t find a place of my own either. Every failed interview and every let down in housing options made me feel stupid and insignificant in the eyes of society, and why should I try to cater to that – they hate me right? (any of this sound familiar at all?)
But I know now that I am more than my past, and I know from interacting with a huge group of fellow felons online in a variety of platforms that many other felons out there are more than their past too.
The heavy reality of that concept sinking in can be hard, both for the felon and for the never convicted.
And it’s honestly understandable. A fellow felon just mentioned to me last week that there are many convicts/felons/ex-offenders out there who are still actively being shitty (for lack of a more eloquent description), and yes, there is always that danger, but I assure you that there are many more of us that simply want to live our lives in some semblance of a secure manner. You know… something akin to ‘normal’ life. That’s a goal for everyone – some form of safety and stability in life.
A Vicious Cycle Forms
I know I just want to pay my bills, raise my kid, and find that thing in life that gives me a sense of fulfillment and happiness. And that’s the general consensus among the people I’ve interviewed about life after a felony conviction. Now, when we aren’t allowed to gain employment, build relationships with family, and are shunned by our peers – who’s to say what any human will do when their survival is threatened? The very behavior that gets people that label of ‘felon’, ‘convict’, ‘thief’, and ‘addict’. If we’re hungry and denied work – happen to miss the breadline, and have no cash – it’s simple fact that a person needs to eat – and theft makes that survival possible in some cases. Or it opens a doorway back to the security of an institution where ‘three hots and a cot’ are provided at the very least. And this is just one example of what can happen when appropriate reentry is prevented.
One of the leading issues in reentry and rehabilitative justice efforts I’ve found in my own research and work with this arena – is that when we’re denied our basic rights on the outside in society, we find them met on the inside of the ‘institutions of justice’.
And that sucks. It makes people want to go back to prison and incarceration, simply because it meets those basic needs that we all have in some way.
However, what our institutionalized populations – and most of humanity, in general, it seems sometimes – are forgetting, is that there are more than just our basic needs in this complex life we exist in. We can’t grow when we limit our lives to those basic elements.
Pursuing Positivity and Breaking the Chain
We have needs for positive social interaction with other people that want us to grow and learn. We have desires for lovers and families (in some cases). We have a wish to do something that leaves a mark on the world. But, somehow, we get caught up on those basic needs, simply because we hear no too often, lose that job, are denied that apartment, or lose that sense of security in life. All because we made one (or more) mistakes, and even though we tried to do better, the more we had to hustle in the wrong way just to get by.
I can only say that through sheer bullheadedness that I’ve managed to scrape by and fight my way to what I want in life. It takes a lot of work and a lot of going the extra mile. If you’re in the same boat, I want you to know you’re not alone, you’re worth more than your past, and you can do whatever you really put your mind to. Hustle for the good side of things, even harder than anything you might have done in the past for that other side. Something I found that is posted on The Friendly Felon Facebook Page, is Chris Pratt’s quote, involving this sentence-
“IT will break before YOU do…”
That’s powerful right there. Meditate on that bit there, and see how far you can push yourself forward. You are stronger than the obstacles you face and you can conquer any goal you put your mind to.
Love and Peace