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Many people don’t know quite how to react when they learn that a friend, family member, or loved one will be going to prison. It can be a very trying and testing experience, and it’s difficult to know what to do or say.
In most cases, even though your friend or loved one may have committed a crime, you’ll still want to help them through this terrible time in their lives. Going behind bars is immensely stressful for anyone, but how should you react? What can you say and do to make their experience a little easier?
Well, there are actually quite a few options available. Of course, not all of these options may be viable to you, depending on your situation, but perhaps one or two of them might be able to help you show some support in a smart way that feels right for you.
Give Them Hope
Naturally, a lot of people heading to prison experience a complete loss of hope. They might even feel that their lives are over, and the exact level of their stress will depend on the nature of their crime and sentencing.
One of the best ways you can support them, especially in the early days, is to give them hope that things might not be as bad as they believe. Even relatively long sentences can end up being reduced and you might want to learn more about filing a clemency petition and reminding your imprisoned friend that they still have a chance at a happy life, once they get out.
Send Some Money
This won’t be possible for everyone, depending on their financial situation, but the simple truth of the matter is that a little cash can go a long way behind bars. Inmates will often need money to buy food, snacks, and toiletries from prison commissary for day to day use, as well as things like envelopes and writing tools if they want to write letters.
It might seem like an intimidating process the first time you try to send money to an inmate, but most prisons make it fairly simple, and it becomes pretty easy once you’ve done it a couple of times.
Always Answer Their Calls
If an inmate is calling you, it’s often because they need a friend, they want to talk, and they want to maintain some kind of connection, both with you and with the outside world, beyond the bars of their cell.
If you’re in a position to answer the call, be sure to do so. Communication with loved ones can make a huge difference in an inmate’s life when they know that someone who cares about them is on the other end of the line, listening to their stories, sharing their experiences, and offering some support.
Visit Them Regularly
As with making calls and sending money, visiting a prison for the first time can be quite a stressful experience for a lot of people, and many friends and families of inmates shy away from this process for long periods of time.
However, even though it’s hard on you, it’s a lot harder for the person behind the bars who has no control over when they get to see the people they love again. So if you’re able to pluck up the courage and make a visit, it can make a massive difference. Inmates need that kind of human, social contact with the people who matter most to them.
One thing that many people worry about when calling inmates, visiting them, or writing them letters, is that they don’t want to make the inmate unhappy by talking about fun things in the outside world. So, they often tend to stay pretty silent, not mentioning much about their own lives or what they’ve been doing for fun.
In most cases, however, inmates will be perfectly fine hearing about your life. In fact, they’ll probably want to hear about what you’ve been doing and they’ll be happy to share in your experiences and excitement. So don’t feel afraid to tell them about that vacation you have planned or that fun party you and your friends went to at the weekend.
Having a loved one behind bars certainly isn’t easy. It’s normal to be angry, upset, and confused during the whole process, but once you can overcome those emotions, providing love and support to an inmate can make a huge difference, both to their life and to your own.