Sometimes life gives you a second chance, and you must choose wisely what you do with it. But one in three adults in the United States has a criminal record, as do millions of people around the world. This record limits their access to education, jobs, housing, and other supports they need to reach their potential, build a better life, and stay out of the criminal justice system.
A high percentage of people in jail or prison are there due to actions linked to mental health issues, addiction, trauma, fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, coercion or trafficking, and wrongful conviction, and upon release are given a second chance at life. What they do with it is up to them, but Second Chance Month is recognized each April in the United States to highlight the importance of helping people who were incarcerated reenter their communities and make meaningful contributions there. Second chances can be offered worldwide, if communities work together to make it possible.
The WRAP community believes in second chances. Whatever can be done to help break down barriers and unlock brighter futures for those who have repaid their debt to society helps us all in the end. It makes communities safer and more unified. This is one reason WRAP trainings are offered in many prisons and why we have a book dedicated to people reentering society: Wellness Recovery Action Plan for Reentry: Moving Forward from Incarceration.
For those who won’t ever leave prison, WRAP is still offered and used as a tool for them to find hope and purpose in their lives. We can find meaning and wellness no matter our life circumstances.
Below we share a few voices from those who have used WRAP in prison settings.
Our Second Chance
By Lee and Dennis Horton, WRAP Facilitators
Prison is a chaotic environment. For us, it was highly traumatic—from a dream into a nightmare. How did we get there?
In 1993 we were falsely arrested, convicted of a crime we did not commit, and sentenced to life without possibility of parole.
We were wrapped up in a fight to prove our innocence for the next 21 years, slogging through the criminal justice system, trying not to fall into the bottomless pit of despair. For a long time, it felt like we were swimming across a sea of straitjackets, anxiety, and depression—tying us in knots, making it almost impossible to stay afloat.
WRAP was our salvation. Desperation was eclipsing our ability to hope, and we were giving up the idea of ever being free. Writing our first WRAP was liberating. It changed everything about us—how we focused, communicated, and, most importantly, responded to the pressures of prison.
The daily plan was the sunshine to transform our cloudy days, and with the tools and action plans developed in our WRAP, we were able to navigate the most difficult situations.
WRAP calmed our troubled waters. No longer flailing against the current, we rode the waves. The trauma of prison gave way to a renewed hope of one day freeing ourselves. With WRAP came the fortitude to withstand disappointment and the humility to overcome and be successful. For us, WRAP was more than a program; it became a way of life.
In 2017, we filed for commutation. On February 11, 2021, the governor of Pennsylvania signed the papers granting us clemency and a second chance. The next day, we were released.
In the beginning, it was scary being home after 28 years in a cell. But WRAP had prepared us to step in and step through to an effective reentry.
By Kurt Danysh, Certified Peer Specialist, Executive Director of Tomorrow’s Neighbors
WRAP fits perfectly within the correctional setting because it provides inmates an opportunity to look inward to identify distressing feelings and behaviors and then create a plan to reduce, modify, or eliminate them. Put simply, WRAP enables inmates to regain control of their lives. This is key for inmates who often feel that their lives—and environment—are beyond their own control.
As a Peer Support Specialist who has worked within the prison system, I can say that WRAP changes lives. I’ve witnessed men recognize for the first time in their lives what their triggers and early warning signs are. Armed with this information, they regain control of their emotions and subsequent behavior.
WRAP restores power to those who feel powerless.
WRAP Can Help Everyone in Prison Settings Find Wellness
By Lynn Miller, Advanced Level WRAP Facilitator, WRAP Associate, Advocates for Human Potential, Inc. (AHP)
As a mental health advocate who offers WRAP seminars in prisons, I find that WRAP is one of the most necessary tools to help incarcerated individuals cope with the culture of prison, understand what led to incarceration, and create a plan they could use when stressors occur.
Many individuals in prison experienced traumatic events in their life before being in prison, and the prison environment can be a constant trauma response trigger. WRAP offers people the tools not only to understand and address past traumas but also to recognize early warning signs and respond to them in a healthy way.
Not only are people who are incarcerated making positive life changes because of WRAP, WRAP also helps staff recognize the effects of working in a prison environment and the impact it can have on their lives and families.
WRAP brings people together and helps inmates improve their emotional well-being, in addition to giving staff the tools to recognize and address stressors and create a supportive environment at work.