You may have noticed I’ve taken a break from writing, you may have not noticed at all. I had to put it down for a minute because every thought I had was about Jason. I have been thinking a lot and you know what? I’m fucking pissed. Instead of telling you all the reasons I’m pissed, I’m going to tell you how I’m getting through, how I’m coping with the mess he has continued to put me in, although he is a world away. The fact is that Jason knew I would be ok, even though I didn’t know it.
It turns out, I’m a fucking fighter. This experience is not getting the best of me. I started this website to cope with my husband’s suicide and I’m continuing this website now because I have a job to do.
Since Jason’s death, I have talked to many people with legal issues. Everything from drug charges, extensive jail or prison time, as well as life threatening illnesses. Everyone I have talked to has something in common.
Their problems all stem from trauma.
This system we have in the United States isn’t working. Not only does it not work, it’s further stigmatizing mental illness and addiction. This problem is so severe, that as a society we’re oblivious to the fact that lives are being derailed and families are being torn apart right in front of us, and we don’t care.
People that do not understand the complexity within illnesses of the mind are content because the “bad guys” are in jail or prison. Why aren’t we looking at the situations which put these often good people in these situations in the first place?
There is something terribly wrong when we refuse to take trauma into account when we judge people addicted to substances, in prison or jail, and mentally ill. After people serve time in prison they are “thrown to the wolves”, so to speak. Sure, they have their freedom, but do they really?
Basic needs are food and shelter, and money with which to obtain these things. I have a really hard time finding a decent place to live that accepts section 8, but when I imagine the struggles of someone fresh out of lock-up, I feel like an asshole for complaining about that.
I’m going to break it down.
First, when someone gets out of prison, they need a place to stay. An ex-convict can forget about section 8. Not only can you not get a section 8 voucher with a felony, most apartment complexes and home owners won’t even rent to a felon anyway. So they better hope they have someones couch to crash on.
Once this person has found a place, safe or otherwise, they need cash flow and badly. Have you ever tried getting a job worth a damn with a felony record hanging over your head?a I hear it’s a bitch.
Most of our jails and prisons are full of folks with non violent charges. Mostly drug related. Most of the time, the drugs started as a coping mechanism to handle their lives and the trauma they have faced. They just wanted to feel differently.
Instead of treating the trauma, we punish them for the superficial things which are only visible on the surface. Using drugs, selling drugs, petty theft, prostitution, etc. What we need to be educated about, and take action on, are the events which led to these things in the first place.
So now we have this person, who served their time without treatment for the actual problem, they more than likely can’t find a decent place to live or work, and they continue to not receive help for underlying issues they are plagued with.
Ray Charles could see what will happen to these people, and it’s society’s fault. They often end up right back in the lifestyle which got them put in prison in the first place. How else are they supposed to survive?
This system is totally fucked up.
We aren’t understanding or compassionate either. I have heard things like, “Well, why didn’t they learn from the last time they got caught up?” That is such an unfair question. Learning is not the issue. Most of the time, they don’t even want to do this shit! They simply have no choice but to go back to what paid the bills before. Before you know it, they are deep in this culture of backstabbers and thieves, all trying to survive. Meanwhile, families are angry and resentful, often alienating the person needing love and support more than anything in the world.
With all of this being said, I think my job is to advocate. The existing system isn’t working, and good people aren’t getting the help they need. They are judged, and then given enough rope to hang themselves.
Something has got to give. There needs to be programs in place with possible incentives to stay on the straight and narrow. You can’t say, “Ok, now live right and don’t break the law. Also, you can’t vote, but you better find a job and pay taxes! Oh no, you can’t live there! You have to live in squalor and deal with a slum lord in the worst part of town. You know, where all your former associates are. Oh, but stay away from them.”
I have to do my part to change this deeply flawed system because it’s the right thing to do. I’ll start by finding like-minded folks and educating myself about the programs that are available, no matter how flawed.
Here we go…