But then time for release comes and what then? New problems, new and old people to deal with, stress added by parole or probation officers and the requirements they bring. Temptations from old addictions or behaviours. This is where the rubber hits the road. The Celebrate Recovery experience in prison was a downhill coast compared to what is to be faced. It will be much harder, like rowing a boat up the stream.
This is where the Celebrate Recovery programs in the community should shine like a light: You are the light of the world—like a city on a mountain, glowing in the night for all to see. Don't hide your light under a basket! Instead, put it on a stand and let it shine for all. (Matthew 5:14-15, NLT)
Every Releasee Needs a Sponsor Some ministries call this person a “mentor” but in CR the term is “sponsor.” There may be more than one sponsor since this can take time to work with the person who has just been released. It should be remembered that the one who has been incarcerated may have been in the institution for months or even many years. The longer one is locked up the more institutionalized they become.
Just as we all have habits (most of which are good) such as locking doors when we leave, or turning off lights that are not used to save electricity, an inmate may not have turned off a light as long as they were in the prison or jail—someone else turned them on and off. They may not have closed a door, it may have been opened and closed for them by a corrections officer. They must relearn “outside habits” that most of us take for granted.
There may have been changes that they do not recognize. One inmate asked me what the coin was that said “quarter dollar” on it. He was used to the old quarter and did not recognize the new images. Most of our money has changed. If someone has been gone ten or twenty years, think of the changes he or she needs to go through to get caught up.
The desire to go back to what was familiar is also very strong. Most of us don’t feel comfortable when we are in unfamiliar surroundings. White folks may feel uncomfortable in a black neighbourhood unless they have been acclimatized. The same goes for blacks. There is no reason why we should segregate ourselves the way we do, but we do very often, especially in church. The sponsor should take extra means to help the sponsoree make that adjustment.
It may be a real temptation to go back to the same addictive behaviours that got the person in trouble in the first place. Relapse is a real possibility, especially within the first six months. Jobs may create stress, or a lack of a job can cause stress and may tempt the ex-offender to slip back, even with a strong Christian commitment. Family issues, especially trying to assume too quickly the role of the head of the household from a wife who has been doing it all, may complicate things. Divorce is extremely high among those who have been released from prison.
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