This short New York Times documentary profiles a former prisoner who guides men released from life sentences in California through their first hours of freedom.
Watch the documentary and say whether the statements below are true or false.
1 Carlos Cervantes has got used to driving long distances to pick up released inmates.
2 Carlos spent 16 years in prison.
3 Carlos usually knows very little about the people he collects.
4 Carlos didn't have this kind of help when he was released.
5 Many prisoners are terrified at the idea of being released.
6 Released prisoners are given $200.
Every ride home is different. A lot of times when I feel like I’m used to getting up in the morning and driving three, four hours into these prisons, the middle of nowhere to pick up another lifer, I figure I’d be used to by now, but I’m not. Knowing that I’m picking someone up that’s just finished doing twenty-five years kind of takes me into how I felt back in 2002 when I was there.
Good morning, sir. We’re here to pick up a Mr Stanley Bailey.
Okay, from Iron Wood?
From Iron Wood, yes.
Well, you’ll have to pull over here and wait over here.
Perfect. I’ll just make a u-turn. Okay.
When I was incarcerated I was a teenager, 16 at the time. I took a twelve-year plea bargain from attempted murder ended up doing 10 years and eight months I got released when I was 27 and I’m looking at the world to kind of find that release for my brothers and sisters that are still locked up.
Being able to help someone makes me grateful, it’s like a privilege, like an honour.
Stanley, what’s up?
Thanks for the ride.
You’re ready or what?
Yeah, more than ready.
Well come on.
We’re now trying to take care of the first few hours at the very least.
I appreciate that, thank you.
When I do this open-heartedly, I don’t know who that person is, why he’s getting out, why he was arrested, why he did all that time but saying, you know what, regardless of what happened, I’m here. Most of the guys I that get out have families that are diseased, most of them don’t have friends anymore. A lot of these guys are actually scared. Their biggest fear is to fail.
You know, I’m not that young anymore, I’ve got to start a whole new career, so I don’t think I’m starting from scratch. I’m gonna have my hands full just getting on my feet.
It comes with the territory, you know. When I got out I had a pretty heavy burden on my shoulders, you know, I had already had to pay rent, and then not having like somebody who really talked to and could relate, that, that just torn me down.
The fear of going back, the fear of saying, you know, this is a revolving door for you, being institutionalised.
The motions that I go through, you don’t know how to deal with them. You always try to isolate yourself. Sometimes I feel like I’m still institutionalised.
I used to go the bathroom, take a shower and I used to just cry. I didn’t know how to deal with it.
Of all the things that everybody talked about doing when I got out, I told them, men, I just want to sit on the grass under a tree. I haven’t been under a tree in, you know 25 years.
It’s beautiful out here.
I don’t have any time to waste on jail anymore.
Yeah, this is going to take some getting used to.
It’s real uncomfortable, it’s going to take a minute. I haven’t heard a car go by in almost 30 years.
I think it’s therapeutic for me releasing someone that information that I know and teaching them kind of how it’s going to be, how you want this to end up, how you want to continue living life. Within those twenty-four hours if you don’t have the support necessary or the belief in yourself that’s necessary for you to continue on, then you struggle.
Coming out is a lot of pressure. When I first got out, I was scared, I’m not going to lie, I was terrified.
We give hope to other people that are behind the walls still just waiting to come out and we make this a safe place for people to transition to society. Welcome to your house, because this is going to be your house.
Three days ago he was a lifer. His mentality was as a lifer. And a lifer is I’m spending the rest of my life in prison. And all of a sudden, boom, you’re out. The $200 that they give you as escape money and for them to say, okay, go live a life, go try to make it. People never see the potential in someone. They figure we could categorise them as they were, they’re prisoners, they’re inmates that’s what they are. When we talk about throw away the key, lock them up, you don’t give people enough opportunities. I think that’s our biggest problem.
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