An Inside Look at Resident's Experience
Making the transition back into society after a period of incarceration is not an easy task, and every resident faces one roadblock or another on the way to his life after prison, but there are also moments of success. Current resident Michael Richardson shares his own experience living at Gemeinschaft Home and talks about the skills he has gained as well as the challenges he still faces.
For Richardson, like many residents, the one-on-one and group interaction aspects of the Gemeinschaft Home program were not easy at first, but proved to be the most helpful part of his experience. Richardson reveals, “Probably for the first three weeks, I didn’t have anything to say, but once I got comfortable, and listened to what was going on, I felt more relaxed to be outspoken, to get feedback, and to add insight.”
He also admits that while he has never been a people-person, at Gemeinschaft Home he has nevertheless become more sociable: “I have learned how to be more responsive to people, as opposed to lashing out at people,” gaining “the ability to read people, the ability to trust people a little bit.”
All residents are required to become employed during their stay at Gemeinschaft Home, which is no doubt a critical component of becoming productive members of society, but it also represents a formidable challenge for most. Richardson began working during his second week at Gemeinschaft Home, and has been grateful for the opportunity to show what he has to offer, but as he now looks for jobs based on his training and skills, things get more complicated.
Richardson explains, “I am a mechanic by trade, and I have been doing that for over 20 years; I know it really well.” Yet, “Even though I am skilled and qualified and have the resume to go along with what I know how to do, people just automatically shut the door on me, just because of the social stigma that comes when they hear that term, ‘ex-felon’ or ‘con,’ without really knowing anything about me.”
He continues, “People [often] think the worst, as in someone who just shot up a school or killed a little girl or an old lady. Especially with so much gun violence, those are the first things that come to people’s minds.” Richardson insists that while he indeed has a criminal history, he is not a violent person and seeks to hurt no one, adding, “I have something to offer; I am not here to take anything.”
Despite the challenges, Richardson remains optimistic and points to Gemeinschaft Home as the reason, saying, “I don’t know where I would be right now, honestly I don’t. I have gotten a lot of help here from the counselors, Jumar and Richie, and everybody on the staff here has helped me in some kind of way, and I am grateful for it.” Richardson reveals, “It’s been three months already, and when I speak to my mother and family members, they see a difference in me.”