Leaving prison after 37 years, the man bewildered to face a smartphone and a monster called ‘technology’

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2021-03-31 05:04:16

When Renaldo Hudson left the Danville Correctional Center last September 2, he beamed brightly. On a sunny afternoon in East Illinois, Hudson took his first free steps in 37 years.

Later that day, he went to Precious Blood Ministry Of Reconciliation, a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting former prisoners in integrating into the community. There, for the first time in years, he saw his friends and embraced his lawyer, Jennifer Soble.

He was also given a Samsung-branded smartphone, a technology this American man could not have imagined in 1983.

“People say things as if they were very simple.“Hudson, now 57 years old.” “They said: ‘Listen, go to your browser and open it up’. And I was wondering: ‘Who is the browser?’.”

Hudson, like many who had been released from prison after long sentences, quickly found himself entering a new world, one that depended on technology and innovation. And the challenge he faced has increased dramatically over the past year, as the Covid-19 pandemic prompted many other parts of his life to switch to online activities.

Many of the social services and employment programs that former prisoners used to rely on to successfully re-enter their communities are now inaccessible without a comprehensive knowledge of the internet. Proponents say it’s an issue that may have been ignored by these organizations and that former prisoners sometimes struggled to adapt to decades of technological innovation that have passed, over the course of time. they serve a sentence.

Renaldo Hudson uses the Zoom application.

In 1983, when Hudson was taken into custody, his cell phone weighed almost 1 kg and was larger than a brick. An early version of the Internet is considered to have come out that year, although it doesn’t look the same as the Internet as we know it today.

“It connects me to the world on a level I cannot imagine”, I said.

There are essential services that many prisoners returning home to immediately need access to, such as health insurance, food stamps, medical care, job opportunities and government-issued identification. Before a pandemic, these people can go to the Division of Highway, social service offices or a human resources agency. Now that everything is online, the obstacles in accessing those services are even greater.

Obviously, getting everyone up to speed can be a challenge.

“When one comes home and we’ll have to really take the time to teach them how to navigate things around”, Said Wendell Robinson, a program manager at Restore Justice, an Illinois non-profit that focuses on the criminal justice sector. Wendell came home in 2018 after 25 years in prison.

Most of the clients in her team in charge are 60-70 years old, and most of them have been in prison for 30 years or more, says Soble, who is also the executive director of the Illinois Prison Project. .

“They really don’t know where to start,” she said. “They don’t know how to turn on the computer when they first get home.”

Leaving prison after 37 years, the man bewildered face to face with a smartphone and a monster named technology - Photo 2.

After decades of imprisonment, Renaldo Hudson had to learn how to use a smartphone.

Learn from the basics

Maria Burnett, a human rights lawyer based in Washington, DC, did not even take into account the gaps in digital knowledge when she began to help support benevolent release cases in the world. Translate.

At least 18 states and Washington implemented some form of compassionate release last year to reduce the density of prisons, release near-term prisoners, and prisoners who are frail and vulnerable in medical terms. risk, or are at greater risk of Covid-19.

According to the Washington administration, Burnett had to draft a detailed reintegration plan for his clients, one example of which was John.

“I thought I had been thinking about a lot of factors and was really meticulous about the challenges he was going to face,” says Burnett. “I didn’t realize that all of those factors will depend on how well his digital level is.”

Burnett didn’t realize John was having trouble using technology until he started missing out on online appointments.

While she was looking forward to hearing about John’s telemedicine appointments, she realized he didn’t know that his phone had to be connected to Wi-Fi or a cellular service to get it. can be used. Likewise, Burnett wants John to join the re-entry support groups on the Zoom app but then realizes that he doesn’t know what the connection path is, and thus doesn’t know he can go to the Zoom room just by way. click on a line of text in blue.

Hudson says: “The prison system, I am sure to you, is really like sending you on a different timeframe.”

Leaving prison after 37 years, the man bewildered face to face with a smartphone and a monster named technology - Photo 3.

Harold Hagerman and Wendell Robinson.

Harold Hagerman, a member of the Restore Justice support system, said he went home last April after serving a 28-year sentence in an Illinois prison.

“A friend of mine, the very night I got home, gave me an iPhone 11, and I don’t know what the hell to do with it,” Hagerman said. “I’m back home and it’s like you’re in the Stone Age seeing all this technology.”

Another problem among former prisoners when learning to use modern technologies is not knowing the basics and being too nervous to ask for help from others.

“The thing that gets frightening is that you don’t want to keep asking because you don’t want to look this slow”, Hagerman added. “Like when they made me see it once and they expected me to understand all of that.”

Seek help from the younger generation

In addition to seeking help from nonprofits and public libraries, many former prisoners have learned the basics of technology from family members and friends, especially the youngest.

Robinson said he met his 2-year-old nephew when he got home and was inspired by his ability to command technology.

“This little boy, he walks around, has a pacifier in his mouth, but knows how to pick up the phone and use it like anyone else”, Robinson said. “It was an inspiration to me. Like thinking that I would be overcome by this little friend, someone who cannot read, even talk or ask a complete question.”

Robinson finds that the youngest members of his family are not only the most tech savvy, but also the biggest advocates of his journey to technology.

“My nieces and nephews, little children, are like the best teacher when they come to help me, you know, take those first steps”, I said.

Burnett says one of her clients learned how to use the Zoom app from her 9-year-old daughter. The two spent an afternoon sitting outside a cafe with internet access until he understood how the software works.

Burnett says: “It’s great to see that my daughter is so reassuring and able to teach someone something so gracefully.”

Refer nbcnews

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