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Prison Re-Entry

Donald Zimmerman was mad at the world, stewing again in a 6-by-9-foot mayonnaise-colored jail cell. Then, he remembered the advice a counselor had given years earlier.

“She told me, whenever you get angry, to close your eyes and take a deep breath,” the 28-year-old Southeast Washington man said, recalling when he was locked up after a police officer pulled him over in October 2008 for a routine traffic stop. They found an outstanding warrant for an old robbery charge, for which he had already served time.

Using his counselor’s suggestion, Zimmerman changed: As quickly as he became upset, something on the inside told him to get rid of that anger, get off the guilt trip and let it go.

For some ex-offenders, the most important part of reentry is not freedom from a jail cell but making an internal change. For some, that means forgiving themselves for their crimes. For others, it’s deciding to stop and listen to the world around them.

But, with a criminal past hanging over their heads, how do they get there?

Shedding the stigma of prison,” The Washington Post, September 6, 2009