Has anyone ever spent over a decade in prison? What was it like to be released?
Answered by: Laura Bitto
Well, I didn't do the time, my husband did. He was in for 30 years. So I'll tell you what my observations were when he came back into society.
He went to prison at 19 and was released at 50. So, culturally, he missed quite a bit. He couldn't believe all the people walking around with phones. Using an ATM card took some getting used to. He brought out a ton of prison lingo, which is fascinating somehow. He referred to our bedroom as our "cell" and our neighbour's homes as "their cells". Prison food is a strange concoction of foods from the kitchen and the commissary, and he still eats "breaks". They're basically Ramen noodles with things added to them to make a meal. My husband adds crushed cheese puffs, pickles and tuna. He loves to take baths and will walk up and down every aisle in a store and marvels at the things for sale. What was strangest was, we'd lay in bed on a Saturday morning and he'd say he had to go to the store. Later that day he'd walk past me, out the door, without saying a word. He'd come back with bags and put the groceries away and again not say a word. I would ask why he was upset and that confused him. He wasn't mad, and he told me he had to go to the store that day. We had to establish relationship etiquette so he'd say hello and goodbye and eventually it became natural to him.
He still has dreams about prison, usually they're borderline nightmares. He is always scanning when we're in open areas - eyes darting around - always looking around for a threat. He gets concerned about his mom and I just doing something simple like going out to walk the dog. I believe he has (had) something like PTSD. He developed a very direct communication style which, once I got used to it, I learned to appreciate. Having a husband that spent time in prison is probably like having a pet pit bull. Some people believe all ex offenders are dangerous and some are. Some don't want anything to do with him. But some people are willing to look past labels and see the individual.
In short, it's an experience.
EDIT: I want to add, since this comes up, I did not wait 30 years for him. I married, and divorced, 2 other people, got an education, and moved to other states while he was locked up.