When someone has been incarcerated for a long time the thought of being released can be stressful. While there are problems and conflicts within the cells it can still become a safe haven. Think about it; almost all of your decisions are made for you what to eat, what to wear, when to sleep and when to awake. This can become a way of life and does for many. The thought of having to make decisions about bills, jobs, cars etc. can be a bit overwhelming.
Most people I’ve talked with in jail have been involved with drugs or alcohol at some point, so addiction is also a part of the equation to think about. What are they going to do after they are released? Are they going to go back to old friends and habits or are they going to attempt to live in a way completely foreign to which they’re accustomed? Do they have to get rid of old friends and make new ones?
After coming out of addiction I discovered I didn’t have to get rid of old friends all I had to do was start telling them about Jesus. Jesus has a way of weeding people out where you don’t have to “get rid” of anyone just simply share your testimony with them. Most of them will move away on their own. If they don’t maybe they will receive Christ and be born again. In that way you will have gotten rid of an old temptation and made a brand new friend. I’m not going to say it’s easy to start life over after addiction or jail but it can be done.
I’m reminded of the story in Acts 9 about the Apostle Paul’s conversion. In the beginning of Acts 9 we read where he was “breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord…” Later on he meets a risen Jesus Christ and becomes a believer. Right away he begins preaching the gospel he so desperately tried to stamp out. This created quite a precarious situation because now he really didn’t have a place of rest. After he converted the Jews plotted together to do away with him. He came to Jerusalem trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing he was a disciple. He was in between the proverbial rock and hard place.
The great news here is that there was a man named Barnabas who wasn’t afraid to stick by Paul. Barnabas came to the disciples and shared with them how Paul’s life had changed. He stood by Paul and eventually the others came to trust him too. This is exactly what it will take for some to get back in the swing of life after addiction or jail. They’re going to need someone who is willing to believe with them.
There are differing opinions about how much help someone should give to someone in this situation. Some will say, “They need to learn how to do things. They need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps.” I heard recently someone say, “What if they don’t have any bootstraps?” Some of these folks get out of jail and they have absolutely nothing: no car, no home, no family and no job. No one wants our jails full, and especially with repeat offenders, but how many want to do what it takes to prevent it?
I know there are programs and people that are doing all they can to remedy these types of things, and there are many who simply refuse to do life on life’s terms. They are the ones that continue to break the law and find themselves back in jail. Obviously this issue isn’t going away anytime soon, but I for one want to be like Barnabas and stand by those that have truly been changed by the power of the Holy Spirit. I want them to have an opportunity to start a brand new life.
I want to personally thank all of those that do play a part in helping these men and women in any way they can. Believe me it is making a difference!