Still solitary

Ruben Ruybal

Photo By Deidre Pike

He’s not exactly living in Reno by choice. But then again, for individuals fresh out of prison, the options are usually pretty slim. Ruben Ruybal, 54, was released from Nevada State Prison Oct. 2. I ran into Ruybal while walking through Wingfield Park. He was on his way back to Ridge House, a residential drug assessment and treatment program, last Friday after spending the morning looking for work.

So, how’s the job hunt going?

It’s hard. I’ve got a drug history and an extensive criminal background. I just did two years for a parole violation. I’ve been putting in applications. Me personally? I can’t get a job yet. I have close to 30 aliases to cover my criminal past, so my real birthday doesn’t even compare to what the prison had on record.

That makes it hard to be you.

Yeah. I have to get my birth certificate from my ex-wife in San Francisco. All those false IDs made it hard.

What have you been doing since getting out?

I got out in Carson City and caught a bus over here to Ridge House. It’s a halfway house with a drug treatment program intended for you to make the transition from prison back into society.

How’s that working for you?

The program’s there to help you. They want to see you make it. When you get out, you have to go around and get IDs. They give you a ride from the house to the Department of Motor Vehicles and to the police department to be fingerprinted, to show you’re a convicted felon. Then they have groups that meet in a therapeutic setting, talk about life skills, how to fill out resumes. We don’t have job skills; at least, a lot of us don’t.

Do you have a family?

Yes. They’re in New Mexico. One boy, six grandkids. I’ve talked to them on the phone. But to do that, you have to have a phone card. And after being in prison, where you’re not paid for doing any job, you come out with no money.

What’s the hardest part about being out?

The hardest part is to blend into society. The confinement is the complete opposite of what’s out here. You feel isolated [on the outside].

But it’s good?

It’s nice being out. There’s a culture shock. The prison industry is a prison industry. Its function is to have a revolving door policy. It’s designed for us to go back. I think the return rate is close to 80 percent. There are a few success stories, but the prison industry doesn’t care if you make it. If you do, fine. If you don’t, they say, “Hey, you’re back.”

Are you going back?

I don’t plan on it. When you’re my age, you get idealistic about these things. I’m a seven-time loser, a habitual criminal. If I go back—for anything—I’ll end up doing a life sentence.

What’s prison life like?

It’s a gang-oriented environment. They’ve got nothing to do but hang out in the yard. The intention is to warehouse you. The rehabilitative aspect is out. You’re just doing time.