Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Prison is Nothing Like in the Movies

I keep seeing the trailer for Wall Street II: Money Never Sleeps. In the trailer, there is this moment where Michael Douglas' character gets out of prison - having been there since the '80's for (I suppose) some white collar crimes involving money - and they give him his phone back. His ridiculously large, obsolete mobile phone. It's meant to be funny. It's meant to imply that he's been in prison a really long time.

Except, in my experience with people released from prison, this never happens. In my work I have met numerous people recently released who left with nothing, not even their i.d. The i.d. is actually the worst thing to lose. But why would they come out of prison or jail with no i.d.? Isn't there some safe box where you can leave all the things you enter with, so they can give it to you when you leave? Not exactly.

You may get your clothes back, but for some reason I have seen many clients who report having their i.d. lost/stolen while they were in prison. Just so you know, you can't do anything without an i.d. Replacement? At least thirteen dollars, if not more if it's expired. No money? Too bad. You can't even get into a homeless shelter without one.

I recently had a homeless man in my office. He had been released from prison some time ago, yet still didn't have a new i.d. He had recently been released from the ER and still had an i.d. bracelet around his wrist. I asked him if he wanted me to cut it off. No, he said, that's how they know who I am. The shelter needed an i.d., the only one he had was a plastic bracelet from the hospital.

So, who are they kidding? Who would get a phone back, twenty years later? Maybe that's something that happens, not when you steal a hundred dollars, but when you steal millions, on Wall Street.

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