I am writing on behalf of the men and women who are released from the Maine prison system, including county jails.

It is hard to write about the tragedy of how prison affects the human condition. But it is harder to write about the painful, arduous transition back to living in the community – or, better put by inmates, back on the streets. When inmates are close to their release, a looming despair erupts, potentiating horrific fear of the unknown.

Leaving prison causes immense anticipatory anxiety beyond what we can imagine. Once on the streets, panic sets in when the reality of destitution, rejection and the stigma of being an ex-convict imprints a mindset of failure. And thus begins a new life of uncertainty down a path of rigid obstacles in securing housing, adapting to probation restrictions and grieving loss of family and friends from past mistakes.

Not all is grim. Not all is lost. As human beings starting life over, the majority of the folks I work with coming out of prison want to work, want to be part of the community and eventually become independent of social welfare programs. I believe that employment mentoring could build community by changing recidivism and transform the lives of men and women starting life over.

Calvin E. Dube

director, Cell to Street Outreach