what is life aside from imprisonment

The population of elderly inmates has been increasing over the past decades, and National Public Radio (NPR) gives us a look at the perspective of those who have been in prison for twenty or thirty years. Laura Sullivan invites us to listen to “Life After ‘Life’: Aging Inmates Struggle For Redemption”
http://www.npr.org/2014/06/04/317055077/life-after-life-aging-inmates-struggle-for-redemption
After listening to this, I noticed a huge issue surrounding these older adults with life sentences is reintegrating into society after living in such a secluded environment, and what some even consider now as their “home” because of the day-to-day routine they have there. The ones who are lucky enough to be approved for community corrections have to find a job, learn how to set up bank accounts and use an ATM. They will have the responsibility of paying rent, as well as finding transportation to wherever they need to go, and this may include learning how to take the bus and obtaining any materials that may be required to do so. We have to think about how much society has changed since the 1970’s and 80’s and how overwhelming it must be to reintegrate into a normal lifestyle after spending decade after decade surrounded by the same walls and floors. The reintegration process is extremely difficult, especially for those who are on the older side of the age spectrum. For those who have been in prison for 10+ years have to try to find and obtain a job after having a great gap in their work experience. They may be thought of as not having the skill set for the work or discriminated against based on their criminal history. So along with being ex-cons, these individuals may be targeted due to their age or other aspects of their identities. A lot of our society sees these gray/white-haired individuals and believe that they do not deserve life on the outside because of the orange jump suits they are wearing. Sullivan points out that they were kept in prison for years and years not because they were a threat, but because “they deserved it”. I want us to keep in mind that life was different back then for the elderly population. They were sent to prison on a life sentence that initially came with parole but as crime started to spike and years passed, the “life sentence” has changed, increasing the number of years while slowly starting to eliminate parole.
I am very disappointed that our criminal justice system holds the opportunity for offenders to eventually be “free”, but does not prepare them for the reintegration process. It’s almost like throwing them out into the world to deal with it on their own because of their criminal history; as if these individuals would be able to pull themselves up without any help. Everyone deserves the opportunity to change. Just as our world is continually changing, along with society, policies, standard “norms”, etc., people may have what it takes to change as long as they are pushed in the right direction and offered services, resources, and opportunities to make the change a reality. I believe that we need to provide these people with tools to move forward with their lives and to operate outside this world that they have been calling “home” for so many years. I praise the efforts of the Long-term Offenders Program, but I do believe there are still a lot of grey areas, gaps, and questions to be raised about the effect imprisonment has on the elderly population and the reintegration process they may get to experience… that is if they do not pass away on their sentence.

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