Three Strike Lifers Freed from Prison

By Dianne Frazee-Walker

California voters were probably not aware when they backtracked on the three strikes law that a new population was created. The “time tunnel generation.” Most of the three strikers that were paying the price for three offenses are now 50ish folks, who had never even heard of a cell phone when they were incarcerated, let alone an iPad, but some of these ex-offenders are making the best of a peculiar situation. The average length of time the “three strikers” spent away from society is nine years.  Image courtesy eii.org

Statistics prove the determination of these misplaced baby boomers with a 2% recidivism rate. Perhaps their reentry success is the product of growing up in an industrious generation.

Most of the released inmates merely made poor decisions when they were in their teens and twenties and fell victim to a hasty legislative calamity. Now that California voters reneged on their seemingly sound choices for policies to “lock-up” the drudges of society, after decades of imprisonment the “time tunnel generation” is paying a bittersweet price for their freedom.

Some of these transformed “lifers” are using the passing of proposition 36 to their advantage. Originating from a generation of old-fashioned work ethics these ex-cons know how to make it in the real world no matter what it takes. The 50ish newly released hustlers share courageous stories of surviving in a world that has made more technological advances in the last twenty years than any other generation.

Novel reentry employment strategies range from handyman jobs to making gyros. 

Spectators pressed their faces and cell phones, taking pictures through the glass windows of McDonald’s in downtown Martinez. Stephan Williams was released last winter from Contra Costa County Jail after a 19-year stint of a life sentence for his third offense, which was for stealing a car. Williams walked out of jail with only the clothes on his back. People stared at Williams as though they were looking at a cave man descending from his cave. Not only did Williams look like a cave man, but he felt like one, too. The cost of everything had hit the roof. Readjusting to society was an immense astonishment for the humble man. The Bay Area was more crowded and more ethnically diverse than it was in 1994 when Williams went to prison. The traffic and noise jolted him. In the new world, organic foods were now replacing Jack-the-Box.

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