Becoming a prisoner in our nation’s deeply flawed prison-industrial complex must seem like a never-ending and oftentimes dehumanizing experience. When and if a prisoner is released, their entire life is fractured. Many feel adrift and disoriented. Some have been in jail for such a long period of time, their fear of the unknown—life on the outside—makes them want to remain in their cell.
In fact, being locked up for 10+ years and then facing release is its own dark form of time-travel—especially for those who were incarcerated at the dawn of the Internet. Redditor u/Yhslaw1 recently posed the following question on AskReddit: “People who got sentenced to jail in the 90’s or 2000’s and got released this year what does it feel like being in todays 2018? What shocked you the most?”
Here are 17 of the most fascinating, illuminating and heartbreaking, responses.
17. The toilets:
My dad is a prison chaplain. One of his inmates had been in for about 30 years, and got out last year. My dad got a call from him a few days later: “Chap! Did you know they have toilets that flush themselves?!?!”
16. The grocery stores:
I was told a story by this ex felon who had a cell mate that finally got released after 30+ years in prison. He gave the guy his phone number, because he knew that transitioning into the real world would be rough. He went on to say that he got a call from his cell mate, at a grocery store in a corner crying because the selection in the store was too much for him to handle. Mostly the different varieties of items, different brands have grown in the past 30+ years.
Also, the use of self-checkout machines can be confusing.
15. The Gatorade flavors:
Saw a dude on the news who’d been in jail for like, 50 or 60 years. He said the craziest thing was seeing all the crazy colored Gatorade’s.
That and he thought everyone was an FBI agent because of their earbuds.
Not a felon, but I did have a lengthy phone call with an ex-con at work once where I went in circles trying to explain the concept of attachments to emails.
I also had to explain that fax and email were separate things.
13. The phones:
I worked with a lot of felons. One guy had been in prison for 38 years. He said everything is different. The cars are so different and quiet. Everyone is on their phones. The phones are weird. People have phones in their pockets.
12. The phones and the gas pumps:
I went to rehab a few years ago and one of the guys there with me just got out of prison after a 20 year sentence for being a huge meth dealer. He said cellphones blew his mind and he’s so confused about gas pumps now because of the option to pay with cards at the pump and how different they look.
11. The lack of kids hanging out:
In like 2015 I met a guy who went to jail in 1997 and had just got out. The big thing he noticed was that there weren’t as many large groups of youth out and about like when he was a kid. He said the saddest thing he saw was going to the local park and seeing almost nobody there at 6pm, when he went in the 1990s there were typically 50-60 young people hanging out skating around and socializing.
He said people aren’t out on their stoops socializing as much, he doesn’t see nearly as many people out and about on friday and saturday nights. I suppose the way we socialize has changed so much since then.
Back then the only way you could socialize was by leaving your house and hanging out with friends, even doing nothing with friends was preferable to just hanging out inside, today people don’t do that as much.
10. Ringtones. And vaping:
A friend of my dad’s just got released awhile back. He was in for about eight years and the other day he was talking to my dad about how vaping is so healthy for you, and he has individual ringtones for each of his contacts.
He’s hilarious, but we don’t mention anything about how behind he is. It’s not as extreme an amount of time as other’s, but you can tell he’s still adapting.
9. The vastness of online media:
My best friend got out in January after twelve years. He can’t handle the awesomeness of Netflix. Also booking shit online. I. Still teaching him Amazon. Oh and you pick your seat at the movie theater…I’m not really over that yet either.
Last thing cutie oranges!
Edit: thought of another. He loves that YouTube now has a video for everything. Want to fix your golf swing…there is video. Want to properly cut up a papaya or tie a certain kind of fly fishing lure… video.