Advice from Former Felons that is Useful to Anyone

Advice from Former Felons that is Useful to Anyone

Wilhelm Voightt leaving prison.
Wilhelm Voightt leaving prison.

When user Frankles asked the felons of reddit, “What is something you wish you knew when you were released?”  responses came pouring in and the advice given was gold. Though the advice was initially for a friend asking who was soon to be released, some of the lessons shared could be useful to everyone.

As another user, norfolkpine, pointed out, this is pretty good advice whether you are a felon or not. For those in college, without a record, their advice may help you realize how much opportunity you have and why you should not waste it.

1. Have a job, get a hobby that’s free or cheap, and don’t hang out with the people that put you in the situation that landed you in prison.

– bstyledevi 

2. Be Honest. Re-frame things as a positive

Be upfront about the felony. If they don’t ask, still bring it up, because there are places that will hire you, then if they find out down the road you have a record, they’ll fire you on the spot, doesn’t matter how good of a job you’re doing. Frame it so it comes off as a positive, I’ve worked it into interviews as an answer to “What is your greatest weakness?” – GrownUpLady

3. People can be dicks.

That’s the hardest part, and you have to be able to learn to lookout for yourself. I had a job that hired me, knowing my background as a felon for theft. “What wonderful, thoughtful kind people!”, you may be saying. Nope, they hired me so THEY could embezzle from the company and blame me. – GrownUpLady

4. Improve yourself, and hold yourself to a higher standard

I taught myself web design, I taught myself marketing, while I was job hunting I took free online courses. I took jobs that were shitty and awful, and I busted my ass at them. I worked my way up and got skills that helped me get better jobs. I constantly showed that I cared about the company, and would go above and beyond to try and help the company. Yes, some people took advantage of it, but the alternative is just to float your way through life and do the bare minimum, since that’s what everyone seems to expect from you. You’re better than that, don’t forget. You are a human being, who made a mistake, just like billions of people do every day. Take that and use it to make you a better person. Because if you do it right, you WILL be a better person. – GrownUpLady

5. Find work immediately

When your friend needs a job immediately, tell her to turn to restaurants, not just fast food joints. Most places don’t really care what you’ve done, and a kitchen or serving job in a decent establishment is a way to make sure you have some really decent loot, some people to talk to, and to keep a PO off your case. – nutsmcbutts

Just get a job ASAP, save up as much money as possible so you don’t have to get into bad stuff again. The guy who said cheap hobbies is correct.

6. Find something productive to do with your time

Turn that corner, start making moves. I went to tech school, got a degree, adopted a dog, started a garden, I brew beer and make cheese. It is much better than committing home invasions and stealing cars. Find something productive to do with your time. Something fulfilling too. Try to identify why you were the way you were, and address the root cause of your pain. Exercise and a good diet is important, especially if you had substance abuse issues like I did. Realize the deck is stacked against you. They have you on paper, and they can yank your parole for almost no reason. So be as good as you can. I had a buddy get violated over a bb gun. He went back to the joint for an extra eight months for a daisy. Most people don’t give a shit, when I tell them what I used to be. Finding a job isn’t impossible. I work for a software company in Manhattan. I am just another dude in oxford cloth who rides the A train. –skrilledcheese

7. Find a support system and further your education

My cousin got out a year ago after 11 years in prison in Texas. He said the best thing to do is find a great support system and to further your education. He took classes while in prison and is planning to graduate in august. He says it’s the best decision he has made because he did internships through the school, and lined up a job that way. He feels if he didn’t have the internship experiences he would never have been hired in a traditional manner due to his time in prison. –ScienceMuddahFuckah

Go to school. You can start with community college to get your foot in the door at a university. Depending on your conviction, you may be eligible for government assistance. arby84

For me, education saved my life. I started going to a community college the fall semester after I was released in February. I still have to go through all of the typical issues felons face like background checks at jobs and rental properties, but the longer you have steady employment/education on your resume/application, the better it looks. – elborracho420

8. Stability is important

There is nothing more important than finding a stable job, no matter how much it sucks. I was lucky enough to just get probation on a felony charge, and a year in, I hadn’t followed my fee schedule and hadn’t started my DA classes because I couldn’t afford it. One month I was happy that I’d made it a year without screwing up, the next month I was back in court facing 3 violations and a revocation. Narrowly avoided going back to jail, lost the possibility to have my charge reduced to a misdemeanor, and now, 4 years after conviction, I’m back to paying a lawyer ridiculous amounts of money, to try to have it expunged because I still can’t find a good job. Hell, I can’t really find any job these days. 

Steady work, pay your shit. If it’s your first offense, it’s not the end of your life. Screw up again, it pretty much is. –mildlydisorienting

If you can afford it, talk to a therapist. It might be unique for me, but this has really helped me with depression/anxiety and kept me away from using in hopes of easing pain. It’s also helped me tons with self-worth issues. arby84

9.Volunteer to gain experience

If you aren’t working, volunteer. I know my experience is unique, but I have had volunteer work count towards actual work experience. arby84

10. Life takes some adjusting

That being released isn’t always the greatest feeling at first.

When I first got outside, I took a walk through town. It felt really uncomfortable at first. I imagine it felt similar to how a person afraid of open spaces feels. It felt like everybody was staring at me, as if they were thinking, “Look at this scumbag. I know what he did.”

In reality nobody was staring at me, but it took some adjusting to before it felt like it.


11. Your actions make a difference to those around you

Spent 3 years locked up. The biggest thing I wish I had known that’s not here already is, Your actions make a difference on those around you. In my case, I got in with the wrong crowd. Thought bein a thug was how I wanted to live. Got rolled on by the “family” I had given so much for, and spent the next 3 years in a box for them. 2 years clean and off paper, but am dealing with my younger brothers getting into the exact same place I was, with the same people. –BlackdOutt

12.  You can and should vote

Not a felon but someone certified to register voters. Many felons believe they can never vote again but this is not true. You can regain your voting rights once you are completely done with your sentence – done with your incarceration and any subsequent parole, probation, or supervision. –compwalla

13. It’s just you and the world

You’re completely on your own to keep track of and meet whatever conditions are required of your parole/probation, and any help or answers you might need to sort out those arrangements simply do not exist.- coldead 

14. Yet, there are strangers in the world who are willing to help

Thousands of people who barely know you are wishing you the best today. It must feel wonderful and strange and great and weird. I do believe that online communities can, at least in part, recreate community that has been destroyed by modern lifestyles but that is so badly needed by our kind. The response you’re getting is a source of hope.

I too wish you the best life has to offer, needless to say. You’re an inspiration –noonenone

H/T The Full discussion 

15. Bonus: Guy asks for Help online, One Stranger’s Response Will Change Your Life

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