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Incarceration Lingers Long After Incarceration

Credit: Tony Schnagl, Pexels

My journey after release from incarceration is a hard contrast from my mix of emotions when I first stepped from the prison gates: relief, apprehension, and a glimmer of hope for a new beginning. Little did I know the journey to rebuild myself would be fraught with heartache and disappointment. The sting of rejection became an all too familiar companion. Despite my best efforts to turn my life around and leave behind my past mistakes, the specter of my 12-year-old criminal record loomed large, casting doubt on my worth and potential with potential employers. Time and time again, I was turned down for jobs I was more than qualified for, simply because of a decades-old mistake.


The heartache of being denied employment for my past was a bitter pill and a constant reminder of my many barriers to redemption. Each rejection was a dagger to the heart. It seemed society was unwilling to give me a second chance, condemning me to a life of perpetual struggle and marginalization. Amid the sea of rejections were moments of grace and resilience that kept me going. Friends and family stood by me through thick and thin, reminding me that I was more than the sum of my mistakes. Their unwavering belief in my ability gave me the strength to keep pushing forward, even when the odds were stacked against me.


There were other small victories, including job interviews where I was able to showcase my skills and talents, despite my past. There were employers who saw beyond my record and gave me a chance to prove myself, proving that redemption was possible.


Despite the pain and disappointment of a decades’ old record still closing some doors, I refuse to let it define me or dictate my future. With each rejection, I grow stronger and more determined to prove that I am worthy of a second chance. Hopefully one day soon I'll secure a staff writing job or a position with an advocacy org, but for now I carry on and do what must be done.


And then there's the challenge of planning and building a future with my husband, who has been my rock throughout this journey. Just two months into our marriage, we find ourselves navigating the complexities of merging our lives and finances while also striving to overcome the obstacles of reentry. Saving money is still like treading water, despite long work hours. Every penny saved is a hard-won victory and a small step to building a better future for myself and my loved ones.


As I continue to navigate the ups and downs of life after prison, I am reminded that rebuilding oneself is not a linear journey but a series of twists and turns, highs and lows. Each rejection, each setback, serves as a reminder of the resilience and strength within me,.


As I continue to rebuild from the rubble of my past, I hold the hope that one day society will see me not as a former “inmate” but as a person with dreams, aspirations, and the potential to make a positive impact on the world. Until then, I’ll keep pushing forward, one rejection at a time, knowing that each setback brings me one step closer to redemption.


C. Dreams is an advocate who writes and lectures about prison and criminal justice reform, LGBTQ rights, harm reduction, and government and cultural criticism.


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