Tips to help prisoners deal with stigma upon reentry

When a person is released from prison, they often deal with the stigma of having a criminal past. It’s an unfortunate reality.

Because of this stigma, it can be a struggle to adopt a new life and integrate into society again when people are labeling or judging you. It’s hard to feel like you have a second chance when others aren’t willing to give you one. However, it’s incredibly important not to let those negative labels keep you from moving forward. So, how do you get past the stigma?

Accept forgiveness

Unfortunately, you can’t make someone think the way you want them to. But you can get to a point where you don’t let their words define who you are. We need to look at ourselves differently. If you’re still holding on to shame because of what was done, work on moving past those feelings so you can find real healing.

You aren’t your actions. You made mistakes, but everyone has. No one is perfect. Forgive yourself and direct your focus to a new life instead of the past. When someone labels you, don’t let their label stick. Yes, this is easier said than done, but remind yourself that you are not the person they say you are.

Find support

You need support in your corner. People who will mentor you, be there for you, and provide a positive influence in your life. You need confidants you can trust and talk with. This could come in the form of a support group, counselor, or some loyal friends or family members who still have your back.

Take time to work through your thoughts

If you’re struggling with racing thoughts, try to work through them in a journal. Write out what you’re thinking and see if you can let go of any negative thoughts that are coming to you. While journaling, write down the positive things in your life as well. For example, you could list the things you’re grateful for or write down some of your most positive traits.

Pray to a higher power

When you’re feeling alone or discouraged know you’re not. You can pray to a higher power to provide you with comfort. And remember that you are greatly loved.

Dealing with stigma after reentry is difficult. But, as hard as it is, please don’t let those negative words that others use seep in and define who you are. Remember this is your chance to move forward and live your best life. You decide who you’ll be, not others.

[Monalisa Johnson is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel and a certified life coach as well as a mother and entrepreneur. In no way is anything that she writes, speaks or shares considered medical advice or clinical therapy. Consider all that you receive to be life coaching and guidance.]

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