What happens when you're released after decades in prison
Today, the New York Times published an article following ex-convicts Carlos Cervantes and Roby So through a day in their unusual job. The pair are employed by the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, who pay them to cart newly released prisoners to subsidized housing in Los Angeles. This is harder than it sounds: many of the former prisoners are located in far-out locations, hours and hours from any city center.
The Times piece takes us through the difficult and even traumatizing experience of a newly released prisoner on their first day outside. Many of these formerly incarcerated people have been in jail for decades, and as the piece puts it, can act like "time travelers" from an era before cell phones or even swipable credit cards. The former prisoners often struggle with simple tasks.
In a recent study, the Harvard sociologist Bruce Western describes a woman who ‘‘frequently forgot to eat breakfast or lunch for several months because she was used to being called to meals in prison.’’ I met one man who explained that, after serving 15 years, he found himself convinced that parked cars would somehow switch on and run him over. So many years inside can leave people vulnerable in almost incomprehensibly idiosyncratic ways, sometimes bordering on helplessness: ‘‘Like that little bird, getting his wings’’ is how one man described himself on Day 1. Many spill out of prison in no condition to take advantage of the helpful bureaucracies the re-entry movement has been busily putting in place."
With the help of So and Cervantes, the Anti-Recidivism Coalition has created an unprecedented resource for the people who survive incarceration when they're at their most vulnerable. Read the rest of the story over at the New York Times.