Picking Smelly up from Jail

Abstract: My brother asked me to pick up Smelly, his friend from jail, and let him stay with me, and I was initially hesitant, but agreed. Smelly turned out to be remarkably normal and this experience reaffirmed my understanding of ex-inmates as being no different than anyone else. This experience also showed me how desperately we need available aid for those transitioning from incarceration to normal life.


11 thoughts on “Picking Smelly up from Jail

  • December 6, 2015 at 2:04 pm

    I really appreciate that you did your second research paper on the RRJ. I had no idea that they only issued one pair of underwear–that’s ridiculous! It’s important to get these issues out into the world, as lots of people probably have no previous experience or knowledge of prison policies in the US. It’s great that you helped someone out who was in a tight spot and you’re right, lots of people are repeat offenders out of desperation and the lack of resources offered to inmates once they’re out of state care. Prison sentences are instituted on behalf of the public, therefore it is our responsibility to help prisoners once they complete them, too.

  • December 6, 2015 at 4:00 pm

    This is such an interesting topic, and honestly is something that I have not really thought about. I’ve seen movies and heard stories about inmates leaving jail and being expected to adapt to life outside of jail but never been close enough to the situation to truly think through it. I really appreciate the way you talked about Smelly and how human he still was. Society tries, and often succeeds, to force us to dehumanize “criminals” and inmates and we therefore completely remove any chance of connection from the situation, fully disconnecting ourselves from the fact that we are all still human. When you talked about him getting into the car really sparked something with me. How else would we have expected him to get into a car? It obviously would have been ridiculous to say “Smelly got into the car like an inmate would” because that statement doesn’t make sense, but for some reason it surprises us when a human that we’ve dehumanized acts human. Thanks for this post, it has really got me thinking.

  • December 7, 2015 at 9:23 am

    I really appreciate the message that you shared with us from your project. I sometimes attend state employment services meetings with state prison re-entry transition and employment staff and I have failed to get the point of view that you shared with us. It also echoed some of what I found in my research on aging services in Virginia. The very end of the 75 page annual report and plan for aging in Virginia which can be found on the DARS website mentions a concern about a population of aged ex-offenders that face release from prison without family or community support or housing which includes long-term care facilities that do not admit ex-offenders. More than half a century ago in Michigan, I had an uncle who ran a large former army barracks facility for older men (many ex-convicts released from state prisons) who had no where else to live. My mother has many fond memories visiting as a child and said that the men who were still able worked on the farm for food, cared for the aged or produced hand made goods for sale and that the establishment was self supported in this way. In my work, I have served people with disabilities who have been released from jail or prison but they have been able to live with family members which raises concern about those who do not have that level of support.

    • December 7, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      I never thought about people who are released from prison in old age before, but now I can’t believe that I haven’t. What a dreadful situation to be in! And for those who do not have family or friends to rely on, their options must be incredibly limited. And I think often times people think of spending money on ex-inmates as a waste, but unless we do we’re building a system that makes integrating back into regular society impossible.

      I really enjoyed reading about your Uncle, he sounds amazing. And I love that your mom was allowed to visit with them! That is so sweet.

  • December 7, 2015 at 9:30 am

    This must have been such an eye opening experience for you. It is so awesome that you had the ability to do this in terms of finances, time, etc., but you’re right: this shouldn’t be the community’s job; it should be the government’s. I knew that the inmates costed taxpayers an absurd amount of money, but I didn’t know it was that high. I was really looking forward to seeing some credible sources for that, however, so it was a bit of a disappointment that you didn’t provide that.
    The dehumanization of convicts is so frequent within our society, and the fact that you were able to break away from that is wonderful. It truly is shameful when you look at how these people are treated when they are in the jail, and how that haunts them for so long afterwards.

    • December 7, 2015 at 5:03 pm

      I totally agree that how long people are haunted by their criminal record is ridiculous. I was watching an episode of Last Week Tonight recently and John Oliver was like, “Imagine if on every application you filled out, you had to admit to the worst thing you’ve ever done,” and that really got me thinking about how unfair it is that every application asks about whether you’ve been convicted of a felony. If someone has a 10 year old drug conviction, that doesn’t really seem relevant to working at Food Lion.

      And if you want to read more about the high cost of prison and jail per inmate, I’d recommend this article. It’s short and is really readable.


  • December 7, 2015 at 1:58 pm

    I cant even imagine going an do that, its awesome that you put aside all of the stereotypes and judgement to help someone out. In another class we were did research into women’s prisons and the extreme mistreatment that prisoners are facing. For me, the lack of medical aid was the most shocking to learn about. Thank you for sharing this experience with the class!

  • December 7, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    I have always been interested in the treatment of people in prisons, especially because of how much money we spend on these institutions does not always correlate to their actual experiences. I value reading and outside perspective if only because I am sure I would react the same way.

  • December 8, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Wow, what a compelling and striking project. I thought so from the moment you read your title in class and am even more intrigued after reading your paper. It’s crazy how the ins and outs of our daily lives can sometimes be related to what we are learning in the classroom in such an interesting way. I did not expect this to be one of the community engagement projects, but I am sure glad it was; I was captivated by each new sentence of your paper, wanting to spread the word on a huge scale to the rest of the world: people who have been incarcerated are no different from the rest of us. Thank you for sharing what I’m sure must have been a difficult story to share all the details about–I think you reached and impacted us as a class even more than you intended to. Awesome work!

  • December 10, 2015 at 11:31 pm

    This was very interesting and thought-provoking to read! I’ve never thought about the actual experiences of inmates who are released, especially ones who have been in jail a long time. They have to start from scratch and may not really have anyone to help them. Smelly was lucky that you were kind enough to help him! It’s saddening to think about people who are incarcerated who may not really belong there, but the stigma attached to them makes it difficult for them to be viewed differently or viewed as normal people just like us.

  • December 11, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    This was such an interesting presentation! After watching shows like “Orange Is The New Black” and seeing their experiences with the prison system compared to reality is crazy. It’s so sad how unprepared the men and women are when they are released. They have to start all over, pretty much start a whole new life.

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