People Who Have Been In Jail Are Sharing What Shocked Them Most When They Got Out

It can be a real shock for people to adjust to normal life again after spending long amounts of time in prison. Our world is changing at an ever more rapid pace nowadays, and it can easily pass some people by.

One person took to Reddit to find out what some of the biggest shocks were for people when they got out after spending time in prison: "People who did a long time (5 years+) in prison, what was your biggest shock of the outside world?"

Please find below a series of the most hilarious, heartbreaking, and downright strange answers that people had to offer!

Forgetting The Details In Life

Unsplash | Kon Karampelas

"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. 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. With social media and everything, there's the acknowledgement of the passage of time. When I got locked up I left a lot of friends and family behind and did 3 years on my own, no visitors, no calls, no mail.

"When I got out it was a trip to get on Facebook and Instagram and see how everyone I was ever close to had moved on with their lives, having kids, getting married, getting fat, losing weight, starting and quitting jobs, falling out with each other, some even passing away. People think about a prisoner doing time but don't understand that the time does them." ⏤ SonicTheEdgelord

Simply Having Life Choices

Unsplash | Caleb Jones

"I was in for Robbery 2: Mandatory Minimum of 5 years, 10 months. One of the hardest things for me once I got out was making choices.

"Let me explain; in prison, you might have [two] choices for shampoo if [you're] lucky. The first time I went shopping for hygiene essentials was at Target. I remember being so overwhelmed by the amount of choices for shampoo and having no idea which one to get. I stood in that aisle and cried for a few minutes before I just left without getting anything." ⏤ Rapunzel6506

There were a lot of people with whom this one really resonated. Another person said that there are now places that help teach ex-convicts general life skills which can otherwise be overwhelming.

Not Being Able To Sleep

Unsplash | Adi Goldstein

"I did 4 years. [...] The first night [out] I tried sleeping in a dark bedroom like I did before prison, but couldn't do it. 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 & 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. For a long time I slept with my arm or a pillow over my head because of noise & bugs." ⏤ Luna_Sea_

They also said that they got overwhelmed by the amount of skin lotion choices there were in Walmart, which is understandable as there are enough options to give anyone a headache!

Being Blown Away By A Gameboy!

Unsplash | George Kedenburg III

"This was a while ago (2006 or so). My cousin, who'd been in prison for about 10-15 years, was finally getting out so me and a bunch of the family went to pick him up, then go get breakfast at some diner. I was just a little kid, at the time, so I was playing with my Gameboy Advance, while we were at the restaurant. I'll never forget how much the game I was playing blew my cousin's mind. He saw it and immediately said 'Holy [s**t], what is THAT?! Look at those graphics! Oh my God, that's insane! (His sister) are you seeing [this]?!' To me, it was just some 'meh' Star Wars game, but to my cousin, it was the future.

"It's actually through video games that me and him bonded a lot. I would tell him about or show him new stuff in the gaming industry and he would tell me stories about the games he would play, growing up." ⏤ AllOfMeJack

Video games are constantly getting a bashing by the conservative media, but they can be a great way for people, who may not otherwise have interests in common, to bond.

Whole Town Having Changed

Unsplash | Marcin Kempa

"5 years for aggravated assault & robbery. I was 3 months past my 18th birthday when I was sentenced. I lived in a small railroad town in South Central PA. I guess one of the biggest shocks for me was how much the town had changed. The scrub land where we rode our bikes and dirt bikes is now a strip mall. My friend's driveway is now the main road through that part of town. Someone fixed up the old dive bar and turned it into a fairly popular restaurant and bar. [...]

"Shock number two was internet access. AOL, NetZero, EarthLink, etc, were the go-tos then, but phased out within a couple years of my release as faster access from cable companies became more widely available and affordable." ⏤ SuburbanBehemoth

They also said that as the town has improved, so had the general cost of living around the town.

How Fashion Had Changed

Unsplash | Lauren Fleischmann

"My aunt was imprisoned for about 25 years as a political prisoner in China. When she was released she was just agape at the cityscape and how it had changed. The smartphones, being able to pay by just scanning with WeChat (very commonplace there, for paying something like parking it is very convenient), all the cars.

"The fashion everyone wears now compared to her closet of clothes she had before being taken away so suddenly (literally, she was kidnapped from my mom's family in broad daylight, unannounced). In the end she took it all in much better than we all had expected." ⏤ foxwaffles

I think that how a city's horizon would change would be the most unbelievable thing. I mean, you only need to look at pictures of the city that you live in from 25 years ago to see how vastly skylines change over time.

Struggling With Relationships

Unsplash | Kelly Sikkema

"A friend of mine was in prison from age 16 to 32, and he said the biggest hurdle to overcome was trying to learn how to date and have healthy relationships without going through the process of dating during adolescence and early adulthood.

"He had to learn to meet his partners where they were at and to understand that the women his age often had relationship experiences that they carried with them, positive and negative, that would impact them in their current relationships. He couldn't relate because he didn't have that 'baggage,' so he had to learn it through them rather than by his own experience." ⏤ redroseygirl31

This person went on to say that their friend now strongly advocates for appropriate sex education to be taught to inmates who may need it for when trying to adapt to the outside world.

The Smells

Unsplash | Vero Photoart

"Let me start by saying not all prisons are equal. I was inside for 3 years total and only went outside three times. Some places leave you locked down 24 hours a day, no matter what the law says.

"First thing I noticed was the smell. Cement and steel have a distinct smell, it's stale. When you walk outside for the first time, the smell of everything around you is overwhelming. It's so fresh, and clean feeling. Definitely one of my fondest memories even though it was preceded by a lot of misery." ⏤ MarvelousJohnson

Streaming Services

Unsplash | freestocks

"My father was in a white collar prison for eleven years and was sent to prison in 2005. I didn’t see him in person till I was 19 and when I connected my laptop to the tv and showed him Netflix and [Amazon Prime] he was astonished. He was used to going to [Blockbuster] if he wanted to watch a movie and pretty much my whole time there was him and I watching a bunch of random movies cause he wanted to see everything they had to offer." ⏤ SuperbFlame

Wow, the idea of still thinking that you would have to go out to a shop and rent a movie, then return it, seems so insane now that we are so inundated with streaming services! There was something quite exhilarating about going into the Blockbuster and physically looking through the movies though.

Being Baffled By All Of The Colors

Unsplash | nrd

"You just don't realize how monochromatic penal institutions are. Everything is painted in a narrow palette of muted colors. The rich green grass in the yard was the only vibrant object within sight.

"When entering the neighboring Wal-Mart immediately after my release I was overwhelmed by the onslaught of colors! Everything was in-your-face loud; it was retinal overload." ⏤ droppedthesoap1stday

Another person shared a similar experience; they felt like they had been tripping on acid after going into a grocery store for the first time after getting out due to all of the colors.

The Wide Variety Of Menial Products

Unsplash | Jung Ho Park

"The selection of stuff. Groceries, clothes, deodorant etc. I served 5 years and was really thrown for a loop my first trip to a store. My SO told me to go pick out bacon (no bacon in Texas prison.) She had to come get me from the bacon section because I literally got stuck looking at all the choices. I'm still a bit overwhelmed by the multitude of choices there seem to be for everything. Inside you just bought Irish Spring or Dial. One kind of toothpaste, etc. Out here, there are entire [aisles] of these products." ⏤ Iarethegoatest

The idea of just being generally overwhelmed by the incredible amount of choices that we have when it comes to basic products was quite a common theme in this thread, and that's understandable. Going from no choices of your own to being presented with a hundred varieties of toothpaste must be massively confusing.

No More Payphones

Unsplash | James Sutton

"My dad spent a little over 4 years in prison. When he got out he had my grandma leave him at the grocery store so he could catch himself up with the current prices of everything and planned to call her on a payphone when he was ready to go home. Before he went to prison there was one on every corner. Guess how many there were when he got out? 0." ⏤ opawesome101

It is hard to imagine someone actually going out of their way to use a payphone nowadays. I think that I have only actually used one once in the last decade, and that was only because my cell was dead.

Self-Checkouts And Wireless Headphones

Unsplash | Daniel Romero

"I spent roughly 9 years in total at a [maximum-security] prison for some dumb decisions I made as a juvenile.

"[Self-checkout] stands at stores and wireless headphones were definitely one of those, this can't be real moments. I questioned reality. Like when you cannot explain an instance and it scares you [...] did that really happen? That's how it felt." ⏤ FirmAngus

Adjusting To Other Food

Unsplash | Christian Wiediger

"[One of the main things] is definitely food. My family picked me up and told me they would take me anywhere I wanted to eat. For some reason I really wanted a Whopper so we went to Burger King. I could only handle 2 bites even though I was starving. I guess you get acclimated to the food inside, and those two bites felt so heavy I couldn't handle any more." ⏤ MarvelousJohnson

They went on to say that their body had just adjusted so much to bland food in quite meager amounts that they couldn't handle the intensity, which is understandable.

Being Able To Float...

Unsplash | Dewet Willemse

"My father was a councilor in a state prison for 12+ years. He told me the inmates would often talk about wanting to feel their body submerged in water. Taking a bath, swim, etc. There are only showers so that feeling [of] being weightless, floating, submerged was something these men would fantasize about." ⏤ PigLatin99

This one is bizarrely sad, as it seems like such a simple and innocent thing — being able to float in a bath — and yet it is something unattainable to them.

How Much their Friends Had Changed

Unsplash | Helena Lopes

"When you come out, it is like a time warp. They say prison preserves you. But it won't preserve your friends. How they age will shock you, if you don't see them the whole time. Your surroundings as well ⏤ buildings you were familiar with may be gone, and new buildings will occupy what was once an empty space. Prices of goods will have shifted. The first store I walked into had cell phones for the same price as a ham sandwich, and when I went in, cell phones were costly." ⏤ DeepestFire

The idea of coming out and not necessarily being able to properly recognize your old friends is a truly unsettling notion. A lot of other people shared their discomfort with how the world around them had progressed without them as well.

The Importance Of Smartphones

Unsplash | freestocks

"I did 6 years. My biggest shock was finding out you can't do much of anything without a smartphone. Companies don't even do paper applications anymore." ⏤ 4dollarz

Someone asked how they didn't realize the importance of smartphones if they had access to a TV, but this person responded, "We got basic cable and I was aware of the new technology but I had no idea everyone was that dependent on it."

Surprise Pregnancy!

Juan Encalada | Unsplash

"I interned at a private criminal defense firm. The most notable shock of any of our released clients had to be one man who was in prison for 16 years [...] He had a daughter who was just a child at the time he was incarcerated, and when he got out, she had just had a baby, his first grandchild. She didn't tell him about the pregnancy beforehand, she wanted it to be a surprise upon his release.

"I wasn't there when our old client met his newest family member or his now-adult daughter, but when he came in a few months later, he still couldn't talk about the new baby without crying happy tears. He had a picture in his wallet of his daughter when she was little he brought with him to prison, and showed us the new picture of his grandchild he keeps with it now." ⏤ Enna_Nailo

This has got to be perhaps the most wholesome one on the thread. What a truly amazing surprise that must have been for him!

The Beauty Of Nature

Unsplash | Lukasz Szmigiel

"Spent 6 years behind bars. When I got out the biggest shock was the beautiful [sights] and colors. I forgot how gorgeous nature was, it put the thought into my mind that I never want to go back, because there is no beauty in prison, the beauty is on the outside. I'm glad I'm out now, and every day still take in the amazing outside world for what it is." ⏤ MrDev16

They also went on to say that they have been having fun learning how to use new technology. But there is something so wholesome in the fact that just a reminder of the beauty of nature was what really stuck out to them.

The Change In McDonald's Prices

Unsplash | Jp Valery

"My father was incarcerated from 2003 to 2016 & the biggest shock for him was technology & how much McDonald's has raised prices lmao." ⏤ SmallPotatoes929

I do like the fact that they just wrote "technology" as a whole and then McDonald's' price hike. As though they're saying, "Well, you know, the internet is great and all, but have you seen how much it is for a Big Mac meal?!"