August 19, 2009
There are so many legitimate obstacles the majority of prisoners must overcome upon their release in order to become an average-joe, law-abiding, tax-paying citizen again. In today's economy, job market, etc. those hurdles are formidable; not impossible to overcome though.
Being released homeless, after years of imprisonment with only a $50.00 dedicated discharge fund check is a big obstacle. Contrary to popular belief, the $50.00 isn't free money that's given to the released orangeman. While imprisoned, a percentage of each prisoner's state pay earned from working is taken and saved until $50.00 is accumulated. Suspiciously, even inmates with "Life" are made to save this $50.00 which they will NEVER be allowed to spend.
Due to ADOC's over populated system and the state's budget crisis and budget cuts, these $50.00 "gate fees" aren't always available to every body. Prisoner wages were recently decreased by 10% and hours were cut as budget cutting measures. So, those prisoners who are lucky enough to get a job, earn even less than before, which also allows for less money being put in their $50.00 kick-out fund.
Now, prisoners average between $20.00-$30.00 a month before any deductions.
15% Discharge Fund
5% Drug Class Fee
20-30% Court Restitution (if ordered) and other deductions such as:
$4.00 Medical Care Cost (recently raised).
$2.00 per month Utility Charges (recently raised) and even child support payments.
Not much left afterwards. Maybe a bar of soap, toothpaste and a roll of toilet paper.
Last I checked, $50.00 isn't enough to rent a motel room in Crackville for a night, much less get you a boost forward into a new start fresh out of prison. Often times desperation, fear and hopelessness causes ex-prisoners to revert back to their former ways. Resignation that it's their only option. although it's a simple cop-out and not their only option, the reality is it is happening.
Most, if not all, other states release their prisoners with $100.00 or more. Despite Arizona's cost of living having significantly increased in the past 20-30 years, the $50.00 kick-out has not budged. It's time to increase it so a person can at least rent a room, buy a meal and a change of clothes. It's not costing any body but the prisoner in order to raise it. It's costing every body dearly not to.
Thankfully, I no longer will worry about this. I am prepared financially to fend for myself. Mentally, Physically and financially... I'm ready to go home and start my life. Despite this, I remain nervous and constantly rethinking about my options and reviewing my plans, and questioning my choices. Should I live alone? Should I move in with somebody? Should I avoid a romantic relationship? What is best for me to reach my goals? The questions go on and on and on...
I want to be successful. My perception of success and nobody else's. I want a safe, stable, happy and sane life.
A comfortable home: A place I can call "home". A place I'm always welcome. A place I can relax. A safe and sound place. Apartment, condo, house or even a trailer...it's not important. Just "Shannon's Home".
A legal and dependable income: Although I have a small nest egg, I want to establish my own revenue. Legally. Whether that means a job, career, or investments. Or all three. I have marketable talents, the desire to earn, the will to succeed and the need for dependable income. I'm not expecting to live lavishly, but I want comfort and to be able to splurge if I choose to - safely. Job ideas: In-house writer / journalist / columnist (civil rights, criminal justice related organization or publication); Painter (homes / interior); Furniture maker / refurbisher, or Internet services provider for prisoners (research, email forwarding, etc.) Investment ideas: Housing market; Prisoner oriented web-business; Franchise; CDs and Bonds or any combination of these.
Good family and friends: I couldn't ask for better friends than the ones I have, but I'd like to expand my circle of friends, surrounding myself with good people. With the friends I have now I know that I can accomplish anything I put my mind to, that people care about me and I'm not alone. they've got my best interest in mind. Family is important to me. Some may argue, too important. My sister K has been through a lot in her own life and has come out on top and a strong person. Raising my niece on her own, K did a fantastic job; my niece will attend NAU and is a brilliant and beautiful young woman. Sadly, I don't know her and have never been a part of her life. I'll be in their lives from now on if they will let me.
I want to find my Ms. Right and give my sister and niece more family. I haven't given up, but so far it's been a disheartening quest. I can still envision her and I and our little family posing for a family portrait on X-mas. K and A and other relatives squeezing in, trying to get us all in the photo. I have decided that until those images fade away, I'll continue to wait. Although patience isn't one of my strongest qualities, it's still a trait I possess.
Helping Others: I want to help other people. Not out of guilt for my past transgressions or to impress or make myself "look good" to others. I truly want to help others because I care and it feels good to me. It really does give me a feeling of happiness, joy, comfort, and fulfillment. It's difficult to describe.
Although I recently made a contribution to "Pack to School", which will provide desperately needed supplies to a local elementary school (kids need school supplies and times are tough for parents right now), but my main interest is two-fold.
#1: speaking out against drugs, crime and incarceration to students and parents. I want to share my experience and advice in hopes of dissuading someone from making the wrong choices I made and hopefully enlighten some parents in dealing with their troubled kids, as well as prevention and observation. Unlike many, if not most, of the "professionals" who do this, I'd speak from first hand experience rather than strictly academic. Note: I do not intend to lessen the importance of the professionals. The pros who've dedicated their lives to this are extremely beneficial and needed. It's just that some people will listen to the tattooed former inmate, former criminal, former drug-user before the pro in his / her suit and cushy office.
#2: I want to continue with my cause regarding prisons and prisoners. Maybe even stepping up my game by speaking at legislative hearings and town hall meetings.
Although my fears about gate-money, shelter, food, etc. have been relieved (an incredible burden), other concerns remain. Less urgent concerns but things I worry about. With everybody who cares about me, loves me, and wants me to succeed on my side, I know everything will work out.
3 days ago