Leaving prison is a scary time for anyone. You are transitioning from the known to the unknown. It’s scary whether you have someone waiting for you on the outside of the gate or, if you don’t, because you don’t quite know what’s going to happen yet. There are a lot of worries, questions, and fears.
At Joseph House, we have been blessed. Rachel Bunting, our social worker, is at the gate waiting for us outside of the prison or jail to bring us home. I would do Rachel a gross disservice if I said, “she did her job.” It would not be enough only to say, “good job” and pat her on the back.
Rachel has a genuine love for her work, and it shows through her actions, daily. It is hard to ask someone else for help. But Rachel is always there and willing to do it. No matter what challenge or problem we might be faced with, she’s in the trenches with us because she wants to see us succeed. She knows that we have had tough times. The damage that is there, mental damage, emotional damage, physical damage that we’ve had to endure, and yet, she listens with a nonjudgmental and empathetic ear. She offers good advice and she’s frank enough to say when she doesn’t have the answers that she does not know but is willing to find out. There have been many things that I did not know how to do because I had been locked up for so long. It’s a whole new world out there and I’m just learning how to crawl in it.
Before my release from prison I had never used a smartphone, did not know what Uber or Lyft was, or even what a “selfie” meant. I went to prison in 2009, for me that’s where technology stopped. I had previously used email and the internet before, but it is nothing at all like what it is now. Think about that just for a moment, I missed out on almost 14 years of technological advancement – internet, televisions, cars, phones, apps, Zoom meetings, instant messaging, self-checkout at a store.
The other day in a gas station I saw a device over the counter that you simply put your items that you want to purchase on a plain countertop, no scanning across a reader. It rang up your total which then allows you to swipe your card to check out with no human interaction at all. There are many times that I have to stop and ask Rachel, “I want to do this, and I think I should be able to do it, how do I make it work?”
The things you may take for granted as being old habits are fresh and new for me. I can connect my phone to answer calls on my computer, cast my computer screen onto a television set to share the image with others. On the television I can catch up and watch any show imaginable immediately. I don’t have to go to a Blockbuster store or Redbox to pick up a movie (plus I don’t have to rewind the videotape anymore either). Things that previously seemed fantastical and out of this world are now commonplace. So when I bring these items to Rachel, she genuinely smiles and says, “Let me show you.” That’s part of what makes this Joseph House family a home. It is the vulnerability to be who we are and share it with others as we walk the journey together in Joseph House’s program of accompaniment.
– By Jeff, Current Resident at Joseph House