Published on February 24, 2023

Overcoming the Stigma of an Arrest

by Psych Times Staff

Being arrested can be an incredibly traumatic experience. Not only does it involve dealing with the complex and often unforgiving legal system, but it also carries a social stigma. Even years after you have served your time, or even if your charges were dropped, society labels you as a criminal. Many people not only face the judgment of others, but the lack of jobs available to those with a record. However, moving forward after an arrest is possible – and can even be empowering. Keep reading to learn how. 

1. Being honest will gain respect

One of the most important things you can do after an arrest is to be transparent about your situation. It can be tempting to hide your past, but this will only make things worse. By being open with those around you, you demonstrate your personal growth and your honesty. Having someone discover that you were arrested after trying to hide it can make you seem dishonest, ashamed, and untrustworthy. Earn people’s trust by being open about your past, as well as your plans for the future. People are human, and we all make mistakes. You may be surprised to learn that people in your community have dealt with similar experiences.

2. Focus on the future, not the past 

One of the best things you can focus your attention on is your future. After an arrest, there are a lot of things to navigate – finding a job, finding housing, and mending broken relationships. By putting your drive and effort into overcoming these obstacles, you can begin to redefine your life goals and rediscover yourself. Dwelling on past mistakes will only increase your likelihood of falling into a depression, or into old habits that led to your arrest. Consider going back to school or volunteering in your community. Create positivity around you, and you will be able to begin moving forward.

3. Surround yourself with people who support you

Having a strong, supportive community during this time is imperative. Oftentimes, the friends you had before an arrest may be people it’s time to move on from, people who don’t have your best interests at heart. If you have people in your life bringing only judgment and negativity, set boundaries with them.

Find friends and family members who can offer the support that you need. If you don’t have these people in your life, look for a support group. It can be incredibly healing to share your story with others who have been through the same struggles, and lean on each other for help overcoming the social stigma associated with being arrested. 

4. Have professional help on your side, too

Life after an arrest can be extremely overwhelming, especially mentally. Talking things through with a counselor or therapist is a great way to navigate your thoughts and emotions with a trained, neutral party. Mental health professionals can suggest coping strategies that can help ease your transition into your new life. Other professionals that can be helpful during this time include legal professionals and even financial professionals. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – it’s only human.

5. Be patient with yourself

Finally, it is important to be patient with yourself and with your loved ones. It may take time for people in your community to overcome the stigma of your arrest, and it can also take time for you to forgive yourself. Moving on doesn’t happen overnight, but embracing patience and positivity will be key in moving forward. Remember to be kind to yourself, and try to find ways to practice self-care, however that may look for you.

Being arrested can be a significant and difficult experience, but you should also never forget your past. Use your experiences to move forward and make improvements in your life. If you follow the advice above, you can spread honesty and optimism to those around you, helping to overcome the stigma of being arrested.

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