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Opinion >  Column

Dear Kiantha: Full web of support needed for father released from prison

Dear Kiantha,

My father has been incarcerated for 24 years and will be released from a maximum-security prison in just over a month. He went to prison as a young man with a drug addiction and I am afraid that he may use again once he is no longer in custody if he cannot get his footing. I worry that he may have a hard time on the outside after being locked up for so long. Is there anything I can do to make sure that he is successful when he is released?

Dear Rightfully Concerned,

No, there is nothing you can do to make sure that he is successful when he is released from prison. I’d like to encourage you to refrain from thinking that you or any one person has the power to “make” him successful. It’s complicated.

Your father can absolutely be successful in creating a new life for himself after incarceration. I believe in him, and you should too. In truth, however, he is going to need an extensive web of support, which is why I encourage you not to carry that weight on your shoulders alone.

We can assume that for your dad, being released into a world that is different in every way, moving faster and more advanced that he has ever seen can be overwhelming. That is on top of having to navigate a history of substance abuse.

Almost nothing works the way it did 24 years ago. Everything is different from the way in which we make purchases and bank to the way in which we communicate digitally.

The truth is that your father’s successful re-entry is dependent on many systems working together with him (and you) to navigate life outside of the confines of prison.

Upon release, formerly incarcerated individuals like your father need support in developing new social skills. The way in which we interact with one another is not the same way in which inmates must interact with each other.

The level of communication required for self-advocacy is a barrier to successful integration.

Finding adequate housing and employment is complicated and not to mention navigating relationships with probation and parole staff and other facets of the criminal justice system.

Your father can be successful, he can create a new life for himself, and he can do so without a dependency on drugs or alcohol. Community, however, has a big role to play in his success.

Let him know I am cheering for him and your family.

Soul to Soul, Kiantha

Dear Kiantha can be read Fridays in The Spokesman-Review. To read this column in Spanish, visit www.spokesman.com. To submit a question, please email DearKiantha@gmail.com.

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