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5 Ways to Support a Loved One in Prison
Regardless of how minor or serious the charge against a person may be, going to jail is a hugely stressful experience. I have seen it happen. A good chunk of this stress stems from personal issues like losing contact with family and friends. And as if that’s not bad enough, there’s a certain kind of pressure that comes with learning and understanding the legal system. Luckily, it’s nothing our loved ones can’t help fix.
If you have a loved one behind bars, here are 5 simple ways to support them.
➀ Visit them often.
While visiting a loved one in prison can be an emotionally difficult experience, it can also be a key step in helping them cope with the situation better. Not only are you helping ease the loneliness they must be feeling, you are also slowly helping them feel less of a stranger, which does happen when inmates return home. Jails keep established visiting hours, as well as a few rules and conditions—so make sure to know and obey all of them. Some of these include:
- Calling ahead to schedule a visit
- Providing your loved one’s booking number
- Arriving on the right day and at the right time and place
- Bringing an ID and complying with the dress code
- Following jail rules on drugs and going through the search process
➁ Take their calls or write them letters.
You may be living too far away from the jail or life may get too hectic to make regular visits a realistic goal. If that is the case, regular phone calls or writing and sending letters can help your loved one feel supported.
- Answer their calls: There is personal discomfort that comes with this: you don’t want awkward silences, and you sure don’t want to say the wrong thing—and so you avoid the call. But realise that you and your loved one are both human, and you both have experiences to share. They want to exchange stories (and maybe a few jokes, too), and they want to continue being in your life. So, pick up the phone. Depending on the facility, there is a designated time for when your loved one can make a call. Inmates submit a list of phone numbers shortly after they are admitted, so make sure your number is on theirs.
- Write them letters: Keep them updated with what’s going on in your life. Tell them about day-to-day happenings in school or at work. Send them lovely photos or funny comic strips—or even word games to engage their brain. They can share your little moments of joy, so don’t hold back.
- Keep them updated on legal matters. They may sometimes feel out of the loop, so check in regularly with the lawyer and pass updates along. This will help so much in easing the strain of their jail stay.
➂ Give them books.
I know this sounds so simple but books have proven to be a sanity-saver for many people behind bars. Books allow their minds to transcend the walls of their prison cells and briefly escape their current reality. While most facilities do not allow family and friends to send books directly from their homes, many allow books from bookstores and vendors like Amazon.
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- 20 Books to Read in Prison
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➃ Send them monetary resources.
Inmates often need money for their basic necessities such as food and medical care, and other essentials like phone time and writing supplies. There’s a number of ways to send funds; however, different facilities have different regulations or restrictions, so make sure to follow the correct procedures. And while you are at it, it’s imperative that you find out how much your loved one really needs—not enough, and they could cut out some needs; too much, and they could become a target for other inmates.
➄ Help them make bail.
If your loved one didn’t commit a serious crime and isn’t considered a danger to the community, then you can help them secure their temporary release through bail. If you don’t have sufficient financial resources, then your best bet is to pay for a bail bond. Get them to show up to all of their court appearances, and can be sure to get all the bail money back. It may seem daunting but with a good understanding of how bail bonds work, you can get your loved one out of jail in no time.
They need you.
While supporting a loved one behind bars is challenging for many, putting in the effort to maintain a positive relationship can make a world of difference in such a difficult time. You are their lifeline. Help them see how they can change.
This sure isn't an exhaustive list but I hope it's enough to get you started. Feel free to add other suggestions below.