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Life After Thirty Years in Prison

A recent article from The Crime Report details one man’s experiences re-entering society after thirty years behind bars. The article is the second in a series from The Crime Report that follows Lorenzo Brooks and his experiences adjusting to life outside of prison after being incarcerated for thirty years.

Lorenzo Brooks, now 60, was convicted of second-degree murder thirty years ago. Even before his release was granted, he says, “I made preparations and I set goals,” he says. “I just educated myself on the resources available.” Re-entry to society is something that many former inmates struggle with upon their release from prison, especially after decades spent behind bars.

“Some people don’t prepare themselves while they’re in (prison),” Lorenzo says. “They think someone else is going to do it for them.”

Immediately after his release on September 22, 2015, Lorenzo went to Bellevue Men’s Shelter in Manhattan and then another shelter in Brooklyn. According to the article, the next day “he began to rebuild his life. He went to the Human Services Administration, where he filled out applications for food stamps, Medicaid and immediate cash assistance. Next, he filled out an application to live at the Fortune Society in Harlem, an organization that provides housing and support to formerly incarcerated men and women, and was admitted about three weeks later.”

A photo of Lorenzo Brooks in his neighborhood. Photo by Alice Popovici from The Crime Report.

A photo of Lorenzo Brooks in his neighborhood. Photo by Alice Popovici from The Crime Report.

Lorenzo now has a job as a program aide in charge of security at the Fort Washington Men’s Shelter in New York City. His first day at the job, he tried swiping his ID card three times before being able to successfully clock in for his shift. He says of his experiences on his first day at his first job outside of prison in thirty years that, “I wasn’t used to swiping a card….It was very foreign to me, very foreign.”

Lorenzo hopes to one day have “a position as counselor for clients [at a homeless shelter like the one he works at] with substance abuse problems—a job that would require about four months of specialized training.”

“Right now, my position is one of being at the bottom of the ladder,” he says, “You’ve always got to crawl before you walk.”

Lorenzo uses his own experiences to empathize with many of the men at the shelter, some of whom were just recently released from prison themselves. “Being in their position, you can feel hopeless and helpless,” he said, “so I try to let them know that they’re not helpless and that there is hope.”

To read the article “Life After Prison: ‘You’ve Got to Crawl Before You Walk'” by Alice Popovici at The Crime Report, click here.