"Everything had gone fast-forward without me," Randall Lee Church, 46, told the Houston Chronicle from the Bexar County Jail in San Antonio.
"I didn't know how to use computers or cellphones or the Internet," he said.
Church was sent to prison in 1983 for stabbing a man to death, authorities said. Church said he acted in self-defense during a drunken dispute over $97.
The year he was locked up was when the first cellphones were introduced -- cordless home phones were considered modern technology. Ronald Reagan was president. "Return of the Jedi" was just released. Michael Jackson's "Billy Jean" was one of the best-selling singles. And McDonald's had just introduced Chicken McNuggets.
Besides the time-warp sensation, "The weirdest thing was walking into a store like Walmart and have parents hide their children from me, like I was supposed to jump at them," Church told the newspaper.
Fed up after 96 days of freedom, he poured gasoline through a window of an empty house, then threw in flaming rags and paper towels, setting the place on fire, he admitted to police.
He wanted to go back to his job at his former prison unit, he told them.
More than four in 10 adult offenders nationwide return to state prisons within three years of their release, studies indicate. This recidivism is known as revolving-door syndrome, experts say.
There are no statistics for felons like Church, who re-offend deliberately because they can't cope with their freedom.
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