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Shackled for Life

Sarah Buzaglo

The disgrace and humiliation ex-convicts must endure after being released and reintegrated is no secret, but even those who don’t feel shamed by their deeds must cope with the deep psychological effects of incarceration. Jonathan Pollard might get a hero’s welcome when he’s paroled, but after 30 years in prison, will his transition into the free world be any smoother than the rest?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

In 1985, Navy analystJonathanPollard was convicted of treason and sentenced to life in prison for passing on classified information to Israel. Now, after three decades of grassroots campaigning, massive fundraising efforts, and numerous petitions for clemency, the Department of Justice has finally granted permission to the US Parole Commission to grant Pollard an early release from the medium-security federal penitentiary in Butner, North Carolina, where he is currently incarcerated. Pollard is scheduled to go free on November 21. While the parole board’s decision is widely celebrated, freedom arrives in tandem with a hefty price tag, and for all ex-convicts, including Pollard, the transition to life after prison is complex — sometimes just as daunting as life within prison walls. Pollard does have one major advantage though: He’s not the standard ex-convict timidly, shamefully returning to his old community, afraid he’ll be shunned because of his criminal record. In many quarters, not only is Pollard considered a victim trapped in the squeeze of little-known international political intrigue, but after all these years, he’s looked upon as a hero whom many communities will be happy to embrace. Still, what difficulties is he expected to face? And more generally, what challenges do all ex-prisoners have to navigate, regardless of whether or not they receive a hero’s welcome?

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