I just returned from a 9-day vacation in Europe. I have had the opportunity to do this the past five years. Each year the trip is as different and unique as the countries and cities I visit. As exciting and rewarding as the trips are, there’s a refreshing and pleasing feeling of walking through my door and saying to myself, “home!”

What is it about “home” that is so pleasing to us? What words can we use to describe it? Safety, security, shelter, family and love come quickly to mind. It defines who we are and from where we came. The sight, sound, smell and feel are unlike any other place in our lives. Home is serene, a refuge from danger. No matter where we are in the world or what is happening to us, we know we can return to our homeland and be safe, protected and loved. We yearn for it when away too long.

But what if we suddenly can’t go home or are prevented from returning to that which we know? What about the individual who through a series of events and decisions finds him or herself locked up in jail or prison? What happens to home? Everything that made “home” what it was is suddenly gone. Things like comfort, safety, trust and honesty can vanish in a heartbeat.

But what if we suddenly can’t go home or are prevented from returning to that which we know?

Michael Spaccarotella

What thoughts and emotions is this person experiencing? What does the term home mean now? Can safety, security, or a nurturing environment be found in a prison cell? For some, I imagine that part of life must be re-defined and re-written.

Many who experience incarceration leave a family behind. A loving family suddenly ripped apart by the absence of a loved one, a family with many questions but few answers, a family left to navigate uncharted territory without a map. A territory that offers little in the way of assistance or support. A homeland that once offered much, now offers criticism and scorn. For many this is a “sentence” of its own. They call it “doing time on the outside.”

For many this is a “sentence” of its own. They call it “doing time on the outside.”

Michael Spaccarotella

An experience like this permanently shifts and reframes one’s perspective of life. The definitions of words like “home” or “homeland” take on profoundly new and deeper meanings. They are not always negative, but more intense and often with caution and apprehension. Many of the people who live with and through this journey choose to keep it private and close to their heart. They offer these few words to those quick to criticize…”Walk in these shoes before passing judgement on something you know little about.”

I agree …

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