Surviving on the Outside: Getting Out of Prison

This information is for those preparing for release from prison, or for those who have recently been released.

Just click on the question to see answers, information, people to call and websites to visit for help.

Day-to-day challenges can put a lot of stress on someone who’s just been released. Things like finding a place to live, talking to Centrelink or getting in touch with family and friends can all be difficult. Although you may have heard that many people released from custody end up back in prison sooner or later, there are many others who succeed in making a new start. The first few weeks and months are critical. This information is here to help you through this time.


GETTING SUPPORT

You may think that if you can handle prison you can handle anything, but many people on release have said that the first few weeks outside were actually harder than the time they spent inside. Coping with money problems, dealing with other people, and feeling like you don’t fit in can be overwhelming. You may feel depressed and anxious and not want to leave your room. If the stress feels like it’s getting too much or is stopping you getting things done, it’s time to seek support.

If you are still in custody, it can be very difficult to organise these things yourself so it can help to ask a SAPO, case manager or Community Corrections officer to help you. It can also be helpful if you have family or friends on the outside who can help organise things.

 


HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

Homelessness is often the biggest worry that people have when being released from custody. A lot of people leave prison not sure of where they will live. Sometimes people need crisis accommodation (often known as ‘TA’) when they first get out. TA usually means a short period of accommodation in a hotel or a motel.

CRC staff are experienced in helping people coming out of prison to navigate TA and access homelessness services, so please call us for help on (02) 9288 8700.


CENTRELINK AND FINANCES

There have been some changes to the way Centrelink operates since COVID-19, including the amount that you get paid and what you have to do to keep getting paid.

There are a lot more people who are trying to get help due to the pandemic. This means that it can take a long time to speak to someone on the phone, or that there can be long lines at Centrelink to see someone.

It might take extra time for your payment to get sorted out. If you need a bit of extra support give CRC a call on (02) 9288 8700


DISABILITIES

We know that coming out of prison and settling back into the community is difficult for many people. It can be even harder when you have a disability and need someone to help you. There have been some changes recently because of COVID-19 in terms of how disability services are working. Talk to CRC about your support needs and we will do our best to help you find the services you need. You can call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 between Monday and Friday.


IDENTIFICATION

Many people lose their personal ID when they have been in custody. It can be difficult to replace when you get out as you often need some form of ID to get other types of ID. It is really important to keep hold of your Release Certificate.

We understand that you may not want people to know you have just been released and showing people the certificate can be distressing, particularly when many services and organisations do not recognise it as official ID. But sometimes this is a really important starting point. Never forget that you are much more than someone who has been in prison – you are a person, like everyone else, who needs and deserves help.

Your release certificate can be useful in helping you to get a birth certificate, which can then help you get photo ID. You can call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 to have someone help you work out what you need to do to get ID.


ALCOHOL AND OTHER DRUGS

Many people who go to prison have ongoing problems with alcohol and/or other drugs (AOD). Using drugs and alcohol is often something that people do to try and manage pain and cope with difficult situations. Nobody chooses to become addicted – but it can be very easy to get stuck in a cycle of drug and alcohol use and imprisonment. This information is for people who want some help to find their way out of this cycle.


CLOTHING AND FOOD

When you leave prison, you will need to find your own clothes and food. It is difficult to know what services are open right now and where you can get the things you need. These are not normal times but don’t despair – this will not be forever. This fact sheet focuses on Sydney but wherever you are in NSW, please call CRC on (02) 9288 8700 and we will help you to find what you need in your area.


DOMESTIC AND FAMILY VIOLENCE

This fact sheet is for women on the inside who are at risk of being released back into domestic violence. A lot of women who have been to prison have also survived domestic and family violence. Leaving prison, staying safe, rebuilding your life and finding somewhere to live can be difficult, and can feel overwhelming. But there are many places where you can get help. And remember, you are not alone.


MENTAL HEALTH

The term ‘mental health’ can mean many different things, and is sometimes used to describe feelings of stress, worry and sadness. These feelings are distressing but are sometimes a normal reaction to difficult circumstances. It is not surprising that you feel these things when you have just been released from prison. Finding support and practical help is really important.

Having a ‘mental health condition’ is different to this. Mental health conditions such as major depression, severe anxiety, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia deeply affect how you feel, think and behave. Mental illness can take some time to be formally diagnosed and can often be managed through a combination of medication and therapy with a psychologist. Whatever your concern is about your mental health, CRC can help you to find the best options for support and treatment. Call CRC on (02) 9288 8700.


FEELING LONELY


FINANCES AND DEBT


PROPERTY, CLOTHES OR TRANSPORT


PAROLE


EMPLOYMENT


VISA ISSUES


FAMILY AND CHILDREN


EDUCATION

Studying may be a good option for you to help learn new skills, give you more options for employment, and generally to help keep you motivated after leaving prison.


EATING WELL

Buying and cooking your own food is the cheapest way to eat well.
When you leave prison you can choose what you eat, and when. This can be great, but it can also feel a bit overwhelming when you haven’t had these choices for a long time. Take-away food is quick and easy, but it costs a lot, and may not be the best for you.