When Bobby Bostic was released from prison in November, 27 years into a 241-year sentence, lots of things seemed strange.
From wireless earphones (“Why are dudes talking to themselves?”), to people talking to their speaker (“I’m like, what is Alexis?”), to self-service drink machines (“You wave your hand and the water comes out?”), the world is much changed, compared to December 1995.
But strangest of all were the people.
“It’s how friendly they are, compared to prison,” the 44-year-old says. “You go into a grocery store, and it’s ‘Sir, can I help you?’ In prison, you got nothing but mean mugs [faces] and harassment…”
He is still adjusting to hearing “Hey, how you doing?” instead of “Don’t walk too close to me.”
“Out here, it’s just good things. People smiling. Little kids waving at you. It’s like, this is what life is. This is normal. This is how things are supposed to be.”
Presumably, then, it’s hard to adapt after 27 years of ingrained, institutional aggression…
“No, because deep down inside, you always wanted that humanity. You wanted that human connection…that’s life. That’s beauty. That’s the joy of being a human.”
After almost 10,000 nights in a cell, November 8, 2022, was Bostic’s last. But he was too busy dreaming of freedom to sleep.
Instead, he spent the long, dark night packing his cell. He left his possessions for other prisoners, but kept one thing. His typewriter held too many memories – too many stories – to leave behind.
At sunlight, with his cell packed, he looked at the board setting out which prisoners were moving cells. Next to his name was one word: released.
“It wasn’t real until I seen the words,” he says. “When I did, it was like music to my soul.”
His departure now a reality, Bostic put on his going-home outfit. After 27 years in grey prison-wear, he had chosen a three-piece blue suit.
“It represents the new chapter of my life,” he says. “The new business of life.”
Twenty-five years earlier, Judge Evelyn Baker told Bostic he would “die in the department of corrections”. But now, at 7.30am on a November morning, Bobby walked out of prison a free man, his suit and smile as bright as the Missouri sunshine.
As he did, a woman in a black hat stepped forward to hug him. Her name was Judge Evelyn Baker.
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