Recently, I read Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown and most of what she presents in this book, I viewed through the prism of reentry planning and ideation. Many of the concepts she offered, when taken philosophically, can be applied to how someone can reshape themselves and begin anew into society after prison. Below are some of my thoughts on how I see Emergent Strategy applying by sections presented in the book. Keep in mind, there is so much powerful content in this book, that to give it its full embodied credit would require an entire academic presentation. For this particular writing, I’m a simple man with a simple opinion.

Inmates can spend years becoming something different. Years. The truly anomalous are sometimes unrecognizable compared to their pre-prison selves. I feel that when we change so wholly and completely within ourselves, we resonate that and people take notice. Before long, we are sought out based on the benefit we represent to the world around us. This applies to reentry because through that internal resonance, we can influence our communities to look outwardly the way we look inwardly. If we become our best selves, we add to our best community. Who we are small, we are large. This can continue to grow exponentially starting with one simple move toward a better change in ourselves. Ms. Brown quotes, “what we practice at the small scale sets the patterns for the whole system.” We all have at least one thing to beautifully contribute.

Intentional Adaptation
How do we want to change? How do we move forward toward a better community? I think first, knowing that we need to adapt to change is the key. As quoted, “change happens….We will adapt to that change or we will become irrelevant.” When it comes to reentry ideation, not changing one’s ways has led to criminal behavior and being ostracized from society. We can reenter successfully, but we have to be fluid and intentional about moving towards success. Embrace the change and be more different than you ever thought possible. Feeling good and doing good aren’t always the same. Adapt through discomfort.

Interdependence and Decentralization
A person releasing back to the free society never has to be alone. There are hundreds of support and community based outreach organizations to assist in a successful reintegration. To evolve into a releasable citizen requires other people. If we were born engineers, we wouldn’t need prisons and would have already been bridge builders to functional communities. But we aren’t, so we need those community assets to help build them. Adrienne Brown gives a brilliant image of how oak trees survive hurricanes by entangling their roots. It takes a village, as it were, and we need to be able to know where our limits are and when to delegate. One healthy thing to do is lean on those releasing before us and be accountable to the interdependency of the community we are reentering. We all play a part.

Nonlinear and Iterative
In efforts to become better citizens upon release, it feel it’s important to know the path to become our most successful individually. Some of those released may be steeped in academia as a passion and move their change that way. Some may be steeped in their faith and change that way. Some may have suffered loss of family and culture, ending in wanted change. Some may simply be tired of being tired with prison. However it works to get someone to see their place in society is all relevant and all acceptable. People grow and shape at their own pace and as long as moving backwards isn’t an option, all else is fair game. A quote that calls to me, “…we can do, be, and create whatever we want to see, knowing ours is one effort in the midst of many, and the multitude is where our power lies.”

Resilience re-entry In terms of , if someone made it through a sentence, they’ve arrived. We will be battered and bruised and reshaped and healed and at the end of the process, we will be the thing we’ve always needed to be. Better. Transformation of everything takes EVERYTHING and by doing so, we can take the best steps possible into a community that can use our previously unused or undiscovered talents. We learn from our pain and what we put our attention on grows. For reentry, I like to put my attention on my future and my place in it, so that it may grow. As quoted, “No one is disposable.”

Creating More Possibilities
What we do with the gift of our place in our communities after prison is not a singular thing. We are better, we are broader, we are beyond what we were, so we should live like it. By being different than what we were, we have the opportunity to birth new changes all around us. How we see ourselves, our communities, everything, it can all be ours to shape. We are all connected and we can collaborate and stimulate growth. We can see where we’ve been and can see a vision of progress. Mostly, we are now responsible to create more opportunities within our communities, regardless of the scale in which we can impact.

In summary, this brilliant book provided food for deep thought of how to apply the contents to a life after prison. We aren’t defined by our worst actions, but we can be better than we’ve ever expected by embracing new relationships around us. If you haven’t yet, please get a copy of this book and have your imagination and a highlighter ready. You’ll need them to catch the remarkable content that jumps from the pages.

By Rory Andes