In 2012, when California amended its three-strikes law, ensuring that non-violent offenders would no longer serve life sentences, over 3,000 inmates became eligible for parole. This week’s ENDPAIN In The World is A Ride Home From Prison, a short documentary featuring one former “lifer,” Mr. Stanley Bailey, and his ride home, Carlos Cervantes. Also formerly incarcerated and a member of Anti-Recidivism Coalition (ARC), Carlos coordinates for the Ride Home program in which he shepherds newly-released individuals during their first vulnerable moments outside of prison.
The film opens as Carlos arrives to pick up Stanley on his day of release. With his first steps outside the walls and $200 to his name, Stanley grabs his only belongings—a brown paper bag and an accordion file folder—and they get in the car to start the long journey towards re-entry.
Stanley served 25 years in prison. During the length of his incarceration, friends and family will have come and gone, landscapes shifted with the passage of time. The world that he once knew is no longer and fear naturally sets in as he adjusts to the uncomfortableness of change; the unknowing of what lies ahead. In an all too visceral moment, the duo stops on a busy street in Downtown Los Angeles. Stanley takes in the passing cars.
“Yeah, this is going to take some getting used to.” As he looks away from the camera, “It’s real uncomfortable. It’s going to take a minute. I haven’t had a car go by me in almost 30 years.”
It’s an incredible moment caught on camera, illustrating the very simple experiences that can attenuate one’s reentry experience. And according to The Marshall Project, “Recidivists, [repeat offenders], are most likely to commit their new offense within two years of release.” This makes programs like Ride Home especially crucial.
But this film does more than share Stanley’s story. The focus on Carlos equally serves to help us understand the challenges that formerly incarcerated individuals face. The shame and fear of this life experience can be debilitating. “If you don’t have the support necessary or the belief in yourself necessary for you to continue on, then you’ll struggle,” says Carlos. Fortunately for Carlos, his membership with ARC and role as Coordinator for Ride Home has given him purpose and meaning from which to navigate the pain of his experience.
In only twelve-minutes, A Ride Home From Prison is able to deeply impact a viewer’s attitude on “lifers” and the reform system. Where rightfully free individuals often struggle to adapt to a new world with little help, private and non-profit organizations, like ARC, have come to fill the gaps.
This is just the beginning of Stanley's reentry journey. To learn more about how you can help, or for further information visit ARC at AntiRecidivism.org, where you can support their mission through donation and advocacy. To learn more about Carlos, the Ride Home Program, and what happened to Stanley, please read this incredible article by The New York Times Magazine.