By Kathy Ficcadenti

By Kathy Ficcadenti

We remind ex-offenders of their inherent worth which far transcends a job.

Click here to read the entire September 2019 newsletter

This is the fourth and final installment of our series, The Perfect Storm. We’ve taken a deeper look into the lives of ex-offenders which comprise up to 77% of the people who participate in our Employment Services. We’ve discussed the role of trauma and poverty in their lives and how unhealed trauma can turn into mental illness, substance abuse, or detrimental behavior such as criminal activity. In this final installment, we’ll look at prison life, so we can understand the context of the person coming to us. By doing so, we can help that person begin to overcome trauma, clearing the path to becoming a more productive employee and citizen.

As you can imagine, prison is a place of pervasive fear, and, at the same time, boredom. There is a lack of stimulation for the brain. In an article published in Real Clear Science, Ross Pomeroy shared that prison is a clear example of an impoverished and sedentary environment. His research showed prisoners sit or lie on their beds for a striking, 9.36 hours per day! This is beside the hours they spend sleeping. This lack of activity negatively effects the prefrontal cortex of their brain, the region crucial for executive functions.

brain graphic

As a means of survival, a prisoner eventually adapts to prison life and the executive brain function is hampered, changing the person’s behavior and emotions. According to one study on the psychological impact of incarceration, a prisoner exiting prison will likely exhibit one or more of the following:

• Social withdrawal • Isolation behaviors • Diminished sense of self-worth & personal value • Interpersonal mistrust • Emotional overcontrol • Alienation

The longer the imprisonment, the more susceptible a prisoner is to these symptoms. At Catholic Charities of Kansas City-St. Joseph we see this repeatedly. Many ex-offenders leave prison with an initial sense of hope for a fresh start only to succumb to anxiety, depression and fear.

Earlier in this series, we introduced you to Timothy, a man whose life was riddled with intense trauma. From the age of nine, Timothy was forced to parent himself. He drifted into substance abuse in his early teens and was incarcerated by age 17. When he came to Catholic Charities straight out of prison, our employment specialists quickly recognized trauma’s effect and changed their focus from helping Timothy gain employment to crisis intervention. Over time, Timothy built trust in us and although our work with him may not result in employment, the impact we’ve had on his life is much more substantive.

As trained Employment Specialists, our initial job is to teach job skills, help clients develop a resume and an elevator pitch, navigate job searches using the computer, perhaps even provide business apparel and organize face-to-face interviews with select employers. But, more importantly, we seek to build self-esteem, to be a resource and confidant for ex-offenders reminding them of their inherent worth which far transcends a job.

If you or someone you know needs employment services, please contact Kathy Ficcadenti at (816) 659-8269 or


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