Adjuѕtіng tо lіfе аftеr a period of confinement in jail or prison іѕ a tіmе fоr nеw bеgіnnіngѕ. Thе tіmе fоllоwіng the completion of a ѕеntеnсе саn bе fіllеd wіth ѕесоnd сhаnсеѕ аnd орроrtunіtіеѕ, еѕресіаllу whеn you rеturn tо ѕосіеtу рrераrеd and ready to make substantial changes. Without a written, viable plan, you will likely fall into old habits, unhealthy relationships, and poor behavior patterns that will derail your hopes for a better future.
The first 30 days after release is the crucible through which you can forge a new life. Having a plan does not mean you have to execute it flawlessly. Instead, having a willingness to make yourself do what you don't want to do for thirty days is more than enough. Change happens when your desire for a new and better life exceeds your comfort with the old patterns that led you to jail or prison. If you are ready to do some hard work for one month and can make yourself do it, you will reach your goals.
Where to Begin
The goal of the first thirty days after release is to build up as much stability as you possibly can. Stability comes from having resources such as money, housing, healthcare, medicine, healthy food, exercise, clothing, identity documents, and compliance with probation, parole, or pretrial services. When you think about the jail or prison services provided for you, you can see the importance of stability. They provided you with food, shelter, bedding, clothing, medical care, exercise, an identity document, and more. Institutions do this because research shows that stability is the foundation upon which all other needs are met.
Along with stability, the secondary goal is to provide for your safety. For example, you can have housing, but it loses its effect if it is not safe. In the example of housing, safety means that your person is physically secure, and it also means that the housing cannot be easily taken from you by a shady landlord or the loss of a job.
So the first ten days of your plan should focus on providing for these basic needs: Food, Shelter, Clothing, Healthcare, and Identity Documents. To meet food and healthcare needs, contact the New Mexico Human Services Department for EBT and Medicaid. The Human Services Department also provides some money for general assistance. Regarding the need for shelter, there are two sub-needs: immediate shelter and long-term shelter. It is best to start your housing plan before being released because it takes time to get housing. Work with the case manager at the jail or prison to get on the various lists with the city and county in which you live. If you are reading this after release, you may need to stay with family, crash on a friend's couch, or stay at a shelter while you go through the process of getting on the lists. This plan is not optimal as your family and friends may not be good influences on you, and shelters are often unsafe or unreliable. But you have to do what you can, and that may involve dealing with a less-than-optimal option while you work on a permanent solution.
If you were taking medication while incarcerated, you would need to get your community doctor to prescribe those pills for you. Prescription medication is available for free at a few clinics such as Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless and the Indian Health Center. If the jail or prison gave you a prescription, it is best to fill that prescription as soon as possible. Once your Medicaid is approved, you can go to most doctors. If you have chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease, make sure to schedule appointments with doctors who treat those conditions. If you take psychiatric medications, you will need to see a psychiatrist. However, psychiatry appointments can take many months to get. In the meantime, see your primary care doctor for medications until your psychiatric appointment time. Medicaid in New Mexico offers a service called Care Coordination. The Care Coordinator is a person who comes to you to set up all the appointments you need and then makes those appointments for you. Care Coordination is a free service, and it is super helpful.
Clothing has practical uses of keeping you warm in the winter and cool in the summer, and it also has the added benefit of helping you look employable. It is essential that you get age-appropriate clothes and that fit you well. Goodwill offers help with job-appropriate clothing. Several community service organizations provide clothing to people in need. Since you plan on a new and better life, take the time to dress in a way that does not hold you back.
To secure employment, you will need to get your ID. Getting an ID might also require you to get a copy of your birth certificate. These identity documents, along with your Social Security card, are vital to your success. These documents are notoriously difficult to get, so your plan should have plenty of time to deal with the red-tape. Don't let yourself get frustrated and give up; just keep trying.
The dreaded PO
Lastly, you will likely be released on pretrial services, probation, or parole. You will also have court dates to attend. Missing a court date or a check-in with your PO is the fastest way back to jail. It is critical to write down your check-in dates and times, your court dates, and any other compliance issues that you must attend to. Look for a way to get a smartphone so that you can make your check-in calls or respond to job interviews. Since the onset of COVID-19, counseling has moved online. You will need a phone to adhere to counseling requirements until you can return to in-person sessions.
Don't put the cart before the horse:
The order you work on your plan is often not the order you desire for things to get done. For example, you might want to get your child or children back from CYFD first. However, it is essential to realize that CYFD will require you to have stable and safe housing, access to healthy food, a source of income, and so forth. There are no shortcuts to get you from release to stability.
Safety and Security:
The second ten days of your plan should focus on establishing safety and security. If your housing solution has broken windows or doors that won't lock, you need to fix those issues, even if the answer means being creative. In addition to your personal safety, you must also secure the means and methods of achieving your plan. Therefore, you need a plan for transportation to and from court, the PO, job interviews, and work. You need the necessary money to cover expenses like bus fare. Missing work because you didn't have a ride will cause you to get fired. Consistency is the root of security. Just like a tree has roots that feed it water and give it stability, being consistent will keep you employed. If you can be relied upon every day, you will succeed. If you don't show up for appointments, can't make it to work, or forget your shift, you will end up without a job quickly. No work, no income, no security; if that happens, start again with a new commitment to being consistent.
Crossing the finish line:
The final ten days of your plan should be about compliance and adherence to the programs you're required to complete. Whether the PO requires you to receive counseling or CYFD demands that you take a parenting class, this is the time to make sure you do what you need to. The final ten days is the time to get the interlock device installed in the car and get the DMV certificate. Work with your counselor and/or case manager to find the resources you need.