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Ex-prisoners reveal the things that shocked them the most after their release

Former prisoners have opened up about the things that stunned them the most when they got out, ranging from advancing technology to the difficulty of adjusting to vibrant colors after spending years in drab cells.  

A Reddit user kicked off the thread by asking people who spent five years or more behind bars to weigh in on the ‘biggest shock of the outside world’ following their release. 

Unsurprisingly, many ex-cons who were imprisoned before smartphones were out were gobsmacked by the technology and how it has become nearly impossible to live without one in the modern world. 

‘I did six years,’ one person wrote. ‘My biggest shock was finding out you can’t do much of anything without a smartphone. Companies don’t even do paper applications anymore.’

‘I went in around the first iPhone,’ another shared. ‘[I] came out around 2014 and what disturbed me the most wasn’t so much smartphones but how everyone everywhere had one in their hand staring at it. It felt very Black Mirror/Twilight Zone-ish.’

One person who was in charge of helping men in halfway houses find housing and jobs recalled how difficult it was for a 73-year-old who had served over a decade in prison to find a job because he didn’t have a cellphone.   

‘I remember him getting frustrated because he saw a job posting on a bulletin board, but it didn’t even have a phone number to call,’ the person wrote. ‘It was one of those “Text [word here] to 30401 now” deals to schedule something.’

Others were taken aback by the music-streaming app Spotify, which many had never heard of when they were incarcerated. 

‘I have two family members who did a very decent amount of time… and of all the things that could’ve blown their mind, Spotify was the biggest,’ one Reddit user commented. 

‘Even the obscure house artists they were buddies with back in ’89 were on there. Not having to burn any CDs or buy records. They still can’t get over it.’

Many people opened up about the things they had forgotten while they were in prison and how difficult it was to adjust. 

‘You forget about the details of things. Like the way carpet feels on the bottoms of your feet. What it feels like to shower completely alone and without flip flops on,’ one ex-con explained. 

‘In prison you have a certain number of smells that you’re exposed to every day, think of them as the first page in a book. But when you get out you have the rest of the book available. It’s a lot to take in all at once.  

‘People think about a prisoner doing time but don’t understand that the time does them,’ the person added. ‘You are frozen in it. While you’re stuck in a constant loop of the same day every day, the rest of the world moves on without you. When you get home, you feel left behind. It’s an anxious panic to catch up after that.’  

Another Reddit user recalled how overwhelmed her brother was going into a grocery store for the first time after serving a little over three years in prison.  

‘The morning we picked him up we stopped by a grocery store to let him grab some snacks,’ she recalled. ‘He’s walking back to the car with this stunned look on his face and finally as he gets to us he goes. “I felt like I was on an acid trip I haven’t seen that many colors in so long, I need to sit down.”‘

Someone else admitted to not being able to sleep in the dark. 

‘The first night I tried sleeping in a dark bedroom like I did before prison, but couldn’t do it,’ the person recalled. ‘My dad slept on the living room couch with a TV on, so I slept on the other couch. I needed to sleep around people and noise for a while until I got used to being alone again.

‘I was surprised, because one of the things I missed the most was sleeping in a dark, quiet room, alone in a comfortable bed.’ 

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