"If Allah findeth any good in your hearts, He will give you something better than what has been taken from you, and He will forgive you: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful." - [Quran, Surah Al-Anfal 8:70]
The United Snakes of America incarcerates more people, in both absolute numbers and per capita, than any other nation in the world. Since 1970, the number of incarcerated people has increased sevenfold to 2.3 million in jail and prison today, far outpacing population growth and crime. And most of those incarcerated are Black people. So-called African Americans make up 13.6 percent of the U.S. population according to census data, but black men reportedly make up 40.2 percent of all prison inmates.
I mean there are more black men behind bars or under the watch of the criminal justice system than there were enslaved in 1850, according to the Michelle Alexander author of: “The New Jim Crow.” The criminal justice system here in America is the newest in a long line of societal structures that have disenfranchised people of color. Creating a permanent underclass or caste system.
Although crime rates have dipped in recent years, the number of so-called African American men who are incarcerated has surged, mainly due to a single law enforcement policy. Most of that increase is due to the War on Drugs, a war waged almost exclusively in poor communities of color. Although Black and white Americans sell and use drugs at similar rates, but Black "Americans" are 2.7 times as likely to be arrested for drug-related offenses.
And because of these unequal crime-fighting measures a black child born today is less likely to be raised by both parents than a black child born during slavery. That is why I quoted Surah Al-Anfal, meaning the spoils of war. It was revealed in the context of a war. We at war even if you don’t perceive it. They call it a war. Hence Allah revealed Surah 8:70 to the prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) regarding the captives. This is a hopeful message for those getting out of federal, state, or county jails. It is a divine promise from Allah that if there is good in you, things will get better and Allah will forgive you. But do you have to forgive yourself?
I remember going to jail, and when I got out I realized I lost everything - my kids, my wife, my home, my income, my car...I mean I lost everything. I was lucky to have a friend who look out for me. And I had a bed to lay my head while I figure out my next steps. Here are some practical things you can do to get your life straight and not go back jail. I remember the guard telling me, see you soon. I was hell bent on not going back.
The first thing you should do is get your Niyyah right, which is your intentions. The Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) said: "Actions are according to intentions, and everyone will get what was intended….." [Related by Bukhari & Muslim]. Pray to Allah to make life better for you. And that he would keep you on the straight path. Vow not to do things that got you locked up in the first place.
Next, you need to have a plan. And if you don't have a plan, you need to make one soon. For school, work, how you are going to sustain yourself when you are home. Write it down. How will you get home or to the probation office (Some counties give you bus pass) when you get out? Then figure out where you will stay once you get out. Will it be a relative, a halfway house, a friend? And how will find a job? Do you have a resume ready?
Take it slow with romance. One of the biggest mistakes you can make is jumping right into a relationship too quickly. You have been away from companionship for many years and when you come out it might seem like a goal is to be with someone romantically. But you should wait until you get more stable. Otherwise it may bring you more difficulty. You want to be self reliant instead of someone being over you. You want to be in a relationship with someone because you want to not because you have to.And you want them to respect you too. Besides you don’t want anymore babies that you cannot afford. And shacking up with someone, who is not your spouse, is haram (forbidden) in Islam.
Speaking of kids. If you have kids already. Be honest with your kids. Don't try and force being a parent on them. They are probably mad at you for not being there for them. You just come in and say, "I'm your father (or mother) and I want to see what's going on with you. I just want to be part of your life. And I respect you. And I respect the idea that you may not want to call me dad (or mom). I understand that because I haven't been here for you.” You make sure your kid understand that you love them. Again, and I really emphasize, be honest with your kids, keep it all the 100 with them. Once you are honest with your kids, you can deal with whatever is coming.You can't build a relationship on lies. You have to earn your trust back. And it maybe a slow process. So have sabr (patience.)
The first word to be revealed to the prophet Muhammad was “Iqra” which means “Read”. Education is a way to better your situation. Places such as Goodwill Industries, community colleges, and workforce development agencies provide options for former offenders. Keep in mind that 66% of offenders without a college degree of some kind will offend again and return to prison, while the number drops to only 5.6 percent of those who earn a bachelor’s degree and fewer than one percent if they get a master’s degree.
While college degrees are useful for career training, you may need basic training. GED classes and occupational courses that lead to certification in jobs, such as - nurse’s aide, welding or machine repair, often provide the stepping-off point for your rehabilitation.
You will need to learn soft skills too. Soft skills that include work ethics, workplace communications and how to interview for a job are vital training arenas that organizations such as Goodwill Industries provide in reentry programs. You may also need assistance with clothing and resume preparation as well as basic math and reading refresher courses before you can enter the workforce.
You may want to consider one of the many skilled trades like welding, plumbing, electrician, or carpentry. Or maybe even get your CDL license to drive a truck. There are many programs out there that are willing to pay for your training.
Whenever you are looking for a job as an ex-felon, do not go it all alone. Look for organizations that can help you. There are many workforce development centers that are there to help ex-felons secure a job for themselves. Check out the social services center in your city and see if someone there can help you.
Also know what’s on your background check and be prepared to tell employers everything they need to know if asked. This is important: Never lie to your potential employer, because if they do a background check and you lied you won’t get the job. If you know it is likely that you will be asked questions regarding your record in the interview or hiring process, or if you have already been asked questions about your background, be able to explain your situation quickly and concisely. Walking into an interview without knowing what is on your background check is like driving a car with a blindfold on. You may be surprised what is there and even more surprised about what may not be there.
You should also know what companies and types of companies will immediately disqualify you for your felony record, so don’t waste your time applying to them. Apply to the jobs that you are more likely to have a shot at to maximize your job search efficiency. For example, don’t waste time applying for school teacher positions or financial advisor jobs that are very strict on this type of thing.
Just keeping it real. It maybe hard getting a job or even a place to live if you have a criminal record. Tenacity and patient-perseverance is the key here. Most Black folks will get 10 no's before they get a yes from an employer. Your odds as a felon is probably triple that. However, almost every state has enacted laws that allow people to expunge arrests and convictions from their records. That would increase your chances in getting hired. You can get your record expunged.
Expungement may be available only after you have finished serving your sentences, including any term of probation. (But, if there's a good reason, a judge may shorten a period of probation in order to allow expungement to take place earlier.) Many people arrested for drug offenses are eligible for diversion programs. These programs typically provide for the expungement of records following the satisfactory completion of a program.
Also keep in mind, expungements doesn't necessarily require hiring an attorney. Many courts have forms available, with titles along the lines of "Motion for Expungement." So you can do it yourself. It would be cheaper.
You can’t do this by yourself. You will need to establish a network of support around you that will positive. Keep those things and people away from you that will get you sent back to jail. You paid your dues but struggle is real out here. But keep striving and not give up hope.
“And hold firmly to the rope of Allah all together and do not become divided. And remember the favor of Allah upon you - when you were enemies and He brought your hearts together and you became, by His favor, brothers. And you were on the edge of a pit of the Fire, and He saved you from it. Thus does Allah make clear to you His verses that you may be guided.” [Quran 3:103].