Ex-convicts are everywhere. If you know a decent amount of people, you’ll probably run into at least one at some point who spent time in the prison system.

Maybe it’s you who committed a crime, and you ended up spending some time behind bars. Perhaps you made a mistake, and the law caught you.

Hopefully, you learned your lesson, and you will no longer engage in the behavior that resulted in your prison term. However, just because you forgave yourself does not mean you can always return to your life and have things be just as they once were.

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Let’s look at some of the ways your life can change after you’ve spent some time behind bars.

You Could Have a Challenging Time Finding a Job

One way your life can change after you’ve done time is that you might struggle to find work afterward. Let’s say the police charged you with something like reckless arson. If you live in Los Angeles, the law might consider that either a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the circumstances.

Maybe you carelessly flicked a lit cigarette butt into the trash and caused a house fire in which you hurt someone. You can get:

• Up to a $1,000 fine


When you get out, you try to find work. Your potential employer will want to do a background check, during which they will learn about your prison time.

They might simply ask you whether you have any prior criminal convictions. Some individuals feel like it’s not fair to question someone about their past misdeeds if they paid their debt and did the time. There are groups that are trying to make it illegal to ask someone about their criminal background.

For the moment, though, it’s legal, and virtually every potential employer does it. When they hear you spent time in jail, they might not want to give you the job, even if yours was a nonviolent or fairly innocuous offense.

Your Friends Might Not Trust You Anymore

Depending on what you did to land in prison, your friends might not trust you anymore. Maybe you served time for something like petty theft. Perhaps you stole from people you knew because:

• You had a drug problem
• You weren’t ever truly friends with them

You might feel like they should give you another chance if you made a mistake. Their feelings about you may have changed, though. You might discover that your former friends no longer want to have anything to do with you now.

Your Family Might Not Look at You the Same Way

You also might have a partner or a spouse, and possibly children as well. They may not have known anything about your criminal life till the police caught you.

You might serve your time, but when you get out, your family might not feel the same way about you that they once did. Your spouse or partner might be cold toward you. Your kids might not respect you as much.

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You might be able to patch things up with them as time passes. You also might face a possible separation or divorce if your spouse or partner can’t get past what happened.

You Might Face Depression

Prison time can change a person. Some seem to shrug it off, and once they come out, they never go back in.

Recidivism is a serious issue, though. If someone has spent time in prison, there’s a good chance they could go back. You have to avoid the behavior that landed you there the first time.

Even if you stay away from that behavior, you might feel depressed when you get out. You may have seen some things inside that it’s hard for you to forget. You may have trouble adjusting to life on the outside again.

You could speak to a therapist about your experiences. Talking to someone can help you get past it. They might decide to put you on antidepressant medication till you start to feel more yourself again.

Some people can readjust to their life on the outside without any issues. Someone might give you a job quickly, and your family might forgive your behavior.

You should still try to view what happened as a wake-up call. No one enjoys prison, and if you want to stay out, you need to revise your behavior. Consider what truly matters, and try to live a mistake-free life going forward.