Who Succeeds Handout

Who Succeeds when Leaving Prison?

From Making Good: How Ex-convicts Reform and Rebuild their Lives by Shadd Maruna

Researchers interviewed men leaving prison trying to understand who succeeds when leaving prisons. They asked the men to tell their life stories. They found a significant difference in the stories of men who stayed out of prison and those who re-offended.

The men who succeeded when leaving prison changed their perceptions of themselves such that criminal behavior was no longer consistent with who they understood themselves to be.

They found some common themes in the stories of the men who succeeded when leaving prison:

  1. The men believed they were basically good people. (Believed they had a Core Self.)
  2. Something happened in their lives that caused them to make bad decisions and choose problematic behavior. (trauma, drugs, alcohol, poverty, parents divorce, abuse, getting in with a bad crowd, etc.)
  3. Something happened that turned them around. (Someone believed in them, some event made them reconsider and see things differently, something inspired them, they hit bottom and realized there had to be a better way, or something transformed their lives, etc.)
  4. They felt empowered to change - often because of their struggle. They believed that there was a reason for their struggle and they had some greater purpose that they are destined to fulfill.
  5. They had a positive outlook for the future.
  6. They changed the way they measured success in their lives. They no longer valued money and power as measures of success. (They measured success by other means: such as being a good friend, a good parent, a good spouse, being creative, having integrity, valuing what they could build or accomplish.)

“I am nothing special of this I am sure. I am just a common man with common thoughts. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten. But I’ve loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, that has always been enough.” ~ from The Notebook by Nicholas Sparks

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