The Inmate Hierarchy of Needs, PT 2
Before we begin, make sure you have read part one of this, it makes much more sense before you try to understand what I am trying to share here.
If you try to read this without the support of the first part of this discussion, you may get lost. This is part 2 of an expected 5-part discussion of what inmates need to get their lives back after they have done their time.
The idea of this document is to try to examine and understand the basic needs that even ex felons must have if they are to achieve some happiness in their lives after they have done their time. It is important to understand that there are indeed levels of needs that each inmate must achieve before he can better himself to the point where he is productive and prosperous to himself and to his community.
This is based off Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which has been widely studied and critiqued in numerous forums of psychological banter. But the purposes of this blog, I am defining it as the levels of former felon needs to get his life back together. And yet, it isn’t just about getting life back, it is about prospering in every way, in mind, body and spirit.
Yeah, that could go for everyone, but I am not talking about everybody here… just ex felons.
So the first part of this document commented on the most fundamental and basic needs that an inmate must have. I won’t go into it again but it basically revolves around the elements of life; food, water, the necessity to sleep, things like that. If a man or woman is coming out of prison, and if he or she is going to pick up their life again, this step, this level MUST be satisfied. Without this, it is impossible to expect an ex felon to survive after prison, and often times it can cause the ex felon to actually desire to go back to prison, because at least there, they can have meals, water, a place to sleep and other basics.
But if the first level is achieved, then there is the second, which as we mentioned, was Safety. To me I might define it as the inmate’s desire to have some reasonable control of his immediate life, surroundings and properties. Now note I said REASONABLE, because unless you can call off a thunderstorm, or prevent all problems, then you have to be reasonable in how you live.
We all know what that is like, since we all want the same thing, but I am focusing this only for ex felons. After a person gets his freedom, the most important thing he needs to know is how his basics for life are going to be supplied. After he gets resolution in this, then his focus immediately turns to how he can secure these fundamentals.
According to Maslow, this second level of needs is defined by these characteristics”
Personal security from crime (ironic, but don’t laugh)
Health and well being
Safety net against adverse conditions in life.
I’ll try to go over each one of them and try to discuss them as far as an inmate might see it.
This kinda makes sense when you think about it. If a man has done time and is released from prison, he is going to want to get a job so he can earn money. Why? Well first and foremost, he has this habit of eating….
As we all do.
See, once the basics are met, then there has to be a way to protect that resource. Otherwise, you become a victim of poverty, which reverts the inmate back to the first level. The idea is to move forward, because the more an ex felon moves forward, the better the chance of him bettering himself and being a positive influence to his community… something I assume we all want.
The idea of security and protection from crime might sound like some irony, since we are talking about ex felons, but don’t laugh. In societal standards, we all want to feel that we can be safe from crime. It’s weird that the older folks tell me that “way back when” you didn’t have to lock the doors to your car, now it is common procedure. Many people in some neighborhoods have to lock their doors to their house, even if they are still in. Here where I live, we only lock it when we turn in for the night. Until then, I never lock the doors, it’s kinda a nice and quiet neighborhood.
“Yeah, but crime can happen anywhere”.
I agree, but I don’t like living in complete fear of what MIGHT happen. Yet this is part of the security level. Based off the “what ifs”. An ex felon can be just as worried about crime as you are. Heck, I don’t want to have my stuff (as little as it is) stolen anymore than you do.
An ex felon has to believe that there is some reasonable guard against crime, if not for himself, then for his property (car, home) and his family. If that is not there, there will be a continual worry to satisfy that need. We simply must feel safe in our own home, or neighborhood, and if not, then it prevents us from moving to the next level.
Financial security is a no brainer but there are points to consider. When we say financial security, some might be thinking of investments and stuff…no, we’re talking about ex felons so let’s focus on that. I know there may be ex felons who DO have investments and stuff, but I am focusing on the majority of those who don’t.
In prison, this need is met in some manner because there are guards and there is protection in prison. Sure there are fights and riots at times, but more times than not, there is some level of order. If an inmate cannot have this when he is free, he will think back to the times in prison where he did have it, and it might not take much to persuade him to go back.
Financial security simply means the ability to have money to support the other needs. An ex felon simply needs money if he wants to eat, pay bills and buy the things he needs. But job security can go further than that.
You can hire an ex felon to help cut grass during the summer, but think about that. How secure is this job? Here in my town, there might be at least 50 businesses doing the same thing, so the competition is high. Throw in the price of gas since that is the key component of the lawn mowers and trimmers and leaf blowers. This might be a decent job for an ex felon to get some money for a time, but what happens when the next season comes? Lawn maintenance jobs in some parts of the country are not a very secure job.
The difficulty here is that for many ex felons, job security may be as short as someone checking their background. We already know many businesses will not hire ex felons, and even if they did, it makes for an easy way to terminate you. I mean, who wants to work with an “ex con”?
It is critical that the ex felon is able to not just find a job, but one with security. That is very difficult because most jobs available to guys just coming out of prison are low paying jobs. As they say, “McDonalds is always hiring”, which means that fast food restaurants and grocery stores are likely to hire a person with a criminal background.
Which when you think about it shows the conflicts of this discussion. Regular citizens want security from crime, and because of that many businesses have the beliefs to refuse to hire ex cons, in some logic to “protect” themselves from crime. I mean, once a con, always a con, right? (as a fool would say)
But you see that it is not enough for an ex con to just “get a job”, there has to be security in it as well. And if that job does not supply that, he needs to be looking for a better job, or a better financial opportunity so he does not have to fear poverty. This is one of many points where prisons fail, because their “home plan” does not account for a job for the inmate. Oh sure, they might ask if you have a job and where it will be, personally I don’t think it’s any of their business, it’s not like they care. Consider that thought folks when you talk to your loved one. Prisons don’t have any use of you telling them where you hope to work when you get out, it’s none of their business. If you share that with them, you are giving them information that the will file about you.
If you told them you didn’t have a job, it’s not like they are going to give you any leads. So prisons have no impact on the job security, or financial security of an ex con coming out of prison. And don’t get me started on the “gate check” of $45 they give to inmates who have been in prison more than 3 years…..
In prison this need is met to some degree, because some prisons have the incentive wage program, where inmates work for a few coins a day. I used to work as a dorm janitor for 60 cents a day on one camp, 40 cents on another. I also used to be a GED assistant for $1 a day. Not all at the same time you understand. But that gave me some financial security, as well as any money my mom sent me.
A guy who did several years in prison who has no financial security in the “free world” may look back to the time in prison where he was at least making a couple of dollars a week, far better than making nothing in a “free world”.
Health and well being to an ex felon simply means the ability to stay healthy, and to be able to provide for one’s self if they fall ill. If a guy comes out of prison after doing 10 years and gets sick, where is he supposed to go?
In prison, that is taken care of, to some degree. If I got sick while in prison, I could go to the infirmary, and if I had no money, it would still be taken care of. I’m not saying I’ll get first class treatment, but it will be better than nothing. These needs are actually met to some degree in prisons in our country, but often times when a guy is released, he has to figure out how to take care of himself.
If I get a headache today, I can walk over to the kitchen, open a drawer and grab some Tylenol, or maybe a BC or an Advil and take it. It does not matter whether it is 10 in the morning or 10 at night, or even 3 in the morning. I have that security to take care of that particular problem if it should happen.
But if an ex felon does not have that opportunity, it can be very stressful. Yet at the same time, I could almost counter by saying that most folks don’t think too much about their mortality until it presents itself to them. You never think about dying until you are in a car crash, or something like that. Especially younger guys, they think they are made of steel. Many ex felons don’t worry at all about their health, most are concerned about making money, which is understandable. But I think the older you get, as an ex felon you will consider more about your health and well being, especially if you have family.
But without this, it is a very scary thought. What happens if you got sick? How would you take care of yourself if you could not afford to do that? It’s a very scary thought if you ever sat down to think about it. An ex felon would believe that he is better off in prison than “rotting” on the side of some street.
And then there is the ‘safety net” against the adverse things in life. In a way, this supports the previous three parts of security that I mentioned. As an ex felon, you want to think that you can have something in place to protect you IF something negative happened to you. Now, most of you are thinking just life insurance, that isn’t necessarily true.
Insurance yes, but not always life insurance. But it goes further than that. If a man tried to get a job and can’t (because businesses won’t hire ex cons) he can have a safety net of an unemployment check, or maybe can apply for federal assistance so he can buy groceries. If he gets in an accident in his vehicle, he wants to have that safety net of the insurance claim. If he gets really sick and has to go to the hospital, he wants to have the safety net of believing his insurance can cover the medical bills.
But the interesting thing about this is that safety nets are not automatic, it takes time to develop. A guy who has been in prison for several years is likely not going to have any insurance, so he has to get that first, which means having the ability to pay the fees and rates, which means getting a job. But what if you can’t get a job, or one that does not pay well enough to get good insurance? If it is a seasonal job, then you face the reality of losing those benefits.
These are things that prisons fail miserably in helping the rehabilitation of inmates. The idea of “sink or swim” to ex felons gives them a very difficult time to adjust to a free society, when the prison society is ironically more structured. The idea of a safety net is like a “backup plan”, if things go wrong or if things change. And note that it does not necessarily have to be bad tidings. You save money in your bank hoping to use it for something positive too. I want to buy a new computer, so I am saving some money to do that. I also would like to take a trip to an amusement park (unfortunately it won’t be this year) someday, so maybe I can save some money for that. Or if something with promise comes up that I can get involved with, maybe I’ll have the money to get in on it. Sometimes your safety net isn’t just to prevent adverse conditions from getting worse, it can be an opportunity.
But with ex felons, especially fresh from prison, this does not exist. But if there was a way you can piece these items together, it would help you create a strong support for this second level for your loved one who is in prison or one who has been released recently.
If you can help your loved one to have these provision of needs on this second level, then the focus then moves upward to the next level…
Social needs: The need and desire to be loved or to be in an emotionally based relationship.
We’ll talk about that next time.