Starting Over: Reentry Tips from a Sex Offender

Richard was released from federal prison earlier in the year. I had a chance to speak with him and ask some questions on what all is required to successfully reintegrate back into society. Below is an excerpt of my interview. Please note that it has been edited for length and clarity.

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BackSoSoon (BSS): Tell me about the halfway house and some of the costs associated with it.

Richard (RM): I don’t know what your financial situation is, but if its anything like mine, I had my family there, but I could not depend on them to start my life all over again. So I chose to stay at the halfway house for the full six months. I thought it was the worst place, but it helped me save and pay for all my expenses myself.

BSS: What about the 25% you are required to pay, how did you handle that?

RM: First thing want at the halfway house is for you to pay 25% of your income to them. Talk to your case worker and ask them about waiving the 25%. You probably will get the whole thing waived or may only have to pay say like 10%. That’s better than all of it. Just let them know you have nothing (this can be verified) and you need to save all your money so you can get a place to live and that you only have a very short time. That’s what I did and I was given the 25% off, so I had to pay nothing.

BSS: What are some of the things you needed when you got out? Things like clothing, furniture, and so forth.

RM: Let’s see. I started with nothing but shorts, two shirts and a pair of shoes from the prison. My family loaned me some money to buy clothes to start work, but they also had clothes at the halfway house.

BSS: Once you got out of the halfway house and were on your own, what were some of the things you needed there.

RM: To start, my rent was about $700 per month, but that didn’t include electricity. In fact, I still owed them three hundred some dollars from before I went to prison. When I asked them about paying it, they said it was over seven years ago and so I didn’t have to.

I don’t have a water bill, but I pay about $43 a month for electricity.

As far as clothes go, I find myself shopping at Wal-Mart and other low-cost stores like Burlington Coat Factory. I’m able to find good shirts for less than $10 or on the clearance rack for only three bucks!

BSS: You told me before about the Goodwill store, what all did they help you with.

RM: A place I’ve never been to before is Goodwill, but I got almost all my furniture there. I bought a 43″ flat-screen TV for $100 and a couch for $60. The only new thing I have is my adjustable bed that I paid $1,000 for, but I’m making payments on that.

BSS: What do you do for entertainment mostly?

RM: I mostly just stay at home and watch TV. My phone, internet, and TV bill from Cox is about $140 a month. My cell phone bill is with Sprint and I pay $60 per month, but there are a lot of plans starting as low as $40.

BSS: What about transportation? Do you have a vehicle?

RM: As far as cars, I looked at some, but my taste is still stuck in the past. I want the nicest, newest and classiest and that’s expensive! I take Uber or Lyft to work and spend $20 to $25 per day. Since I haven’t had insurance in so long, it would me an easy $500 to $600 a month. So why not have someone else drive me around for a couple hundred dollars cheaper. Besides, here in Phoenix, I don’t have to deal with traffic headaches.

BSS: Whenever you got your paycheck, what did you usually do with that money?

RM: One thing I did every weekend when I got paid, I would go and buy stuff I need for the apartment: sheets, toilet paper and dishes. I got a lot of it at Goodwill. Some dishes are the same ones you can get at Wal-Mart for much cheaper. I would go to Wal-Mart and buy things like towels and cleaning supplies. I bought most of that at the halfway house and stored it at my parents’ house until I was released.

BSS: Do you eat out a lot?

RM: I still blow money on stuff I don’t need. Prices have definitely gone up. There are no more dollar menus. Burgers that used to be 99 cents are close to $5 now and chicken sandwiches were expensive when I got locked up and now they are cheaper than burgers.

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