Loving an Inmate – Tips for Prisoners’ Families

A prison sentence not only affects the one who has been incarcerated – it affects the whole family. Being taken away from family and friends is one of the most challenging aspects of the sentence for the inmate. The same feeling of punishment and isolation is felt by family members as well. How can you prepare yourself and your family?

The good news is, 96% of people who are in prison will eventually be released. However, your support makes a huge difference for the inmate. It will help your loved one to better cope during the time away, and to prepare for a better life afterwards. Offering your support doesn’t mean validating fantasies of innocence or stoking righteous anger. However, you can help them realize that yes, they made a bad choice –  but this one choice doesn’t have to define them. You can help them plan for the future and to set positive goals.

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How to Support Your Loved One in Prison:

  • Have regular, open, and honest communication;
  • Get the PrisonConnect number and ask your loved one to register it at the facility – by paying so much less for calls, you’ll be able to talk more.
  • Write letters to each other – it gives you both something to look forward to, and means so much to your loved one to know someone cares! If you have children, encourage regular writing in both directions. They can always pick up a letter and re-read it.

We encourage you to call, visit and write letters to your loved one in prison. In some facilities, inmates are allowed to spend time with their children away from the usual constraints of a prison visit. You can also try sending and receiving emails if this is allowed in your facility.

Find Out All Necessary Information about the Facility:

  • Become familiar with all rules and regulations, so you don’t accidentally violate any of them, causing further problems.
  • Ask how many people can visit at the same time. Also be sure to determine what the visitation schedule and hours are.
  • Find out how often your loved one can order from the commissary, and how much money they can spend every week/month.
  • Determine what special services the facility offers. For example, some facilities offer work details, educational programs, and special medical options. This can help make sure your loved one can spend their time productively, and address any health issues or medical needs.

Having a loved one in prison is a difficult life journey. Preparing yourself with knowledge will help you know what to expect  and will assist your family in getting through this challenging time.

Raising Children with a Parent in Prison

When a parent goes to prison, it can be traumatic and have a huge emotional impact on the family. It can be especially overwhelming for remaining parent and their children, and takes incredible determination to return to a normal life.

Their incarceration may mean you have to work more or take on another job. You might have to change your residence. In the midst of that, you could be dealing with resentment, anger and hurt. In some cases, you may feel you want to avoid contact with the parent behind bars; however, keep in mind that it is always better to do what’s best for the children. They need love and support from both of their parents. They haven’t forgotten the parent who is in prison, and they want to know they’re not forgotten either.

Best practices of raising children with a parent in prison include:

  1. Building a positive and meaningful connection between children and their parents behind bars. This kind of supportive relationship will benefit everyone in the family.
  2. Regardless of your personal feelings, speak respectfully about the incarcerated parent in front of children. Insults and critics will only bring additional stress and confusion into the children’s lives.
  3. Talk honestly about how he or she made a wrong choice and is now facing the consequences. Use this as an opportunity to teach the importance of making good decisions.
  4. When your loved one calls, allow your children to speak with the other parent. Help them to prepare for the call by choosing a specific topic before the call so they won’t ramble and communication will be better.
  5. Encourage your children to write letters and draw pictures for their parent in prison – it means a lot to the parent to receive these items from their children. Contact the prison to find out what you’re allowed to send, and include photos of the children if it’s permissible.

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