- When Someone You Love Goes to Jail
- 7 Ways to Help Your Loved One in Prison
- What to Do When Someone You Love Goes to Jail
- Loving Someone in Prison
- 5 Ways to Help Your Loved One (and Yourself) During and After Incarceration
- 6 Things to Do to Make Prison Life Bearable for a Loved One – Halt.org
- Keep in Touch
- Keep Them Entertained
- Send Some Gifts
- Share Your Joys
- Share Your Troubles
- Make them feel important
- The Bottom Line
- 10 Ways to Support Friends and Family Members in Prison
- 1. Send Money If Possible
- 2. Answer Their Calls
- 3. Write Them Letters
- 4. Visit Them in Prison
- 5. Ask Them If They’ve Made Friends in Prison and Visit Them, Too
- 6. Remind Them That They’re Powerful and Resilient
- 7. Tell Them About Your Life
- 8. Exchange Jokes
- 9. Learn About Anti-Prison Organizing – And Share It with Them
- 10. Open Up to Others About Your Loved One in Prison
When Someone You Love Goes to Jail
Sarah felt the Earth had opened beneath her feet. Her husband had confessed to a crime and had been sent to prison.
Her emotional support, the father of her children and the family's breadwinner was now incarcerated for years that would seem decades as she was left to face their mutual responsibilities in the pain of solitude.
Now she was forced to work full time, struggle for neutral answers to incessant questions about where Daddy went, face the neighbors who might smile politely but rush on past her. Sarah reached out, but there was no welcoming hand.
Esther revisited in silence her ninety-four years of life, and searched for ways she could have been a better mother, a better person; anything to have prevented her daughter's incarceration.
She watched as friends looked forward with excitement to visits from their own daughters and embraces from grandchildren while Esther remained alone with an occasional phone call from her daughter, for whom freedom existed only as a memory and a hope for the future.
Esther and Sarah discussed these feelings at weekly meetings organized by the Aleph Institute. In spite of their age difference, they connected sisters through their shared pain and prayers.
Other family members of inmates expressed their misplaced guilt, their worry over financial pressures and their loneliness at Aleph Institute meetings.
One woman's shyness and shame turned into reassurance as she surveyed the sympathetic faces around the room and said, “You all know. You really get it. You are all there.” Just sharing the pain made the burden lighter.
Soon, Sarah began to feel as if she had been freed from her own prison, “It is the Aleph group meetings that make a real difference in my ability to get on with my life, to accomplish things again, to plan for my future.”
Sarah's husband received a gift, a Jewish calendar, and he repeatedly thumbed through its pages and recalled holiday observances from his youth. His soul thirsted to learn more about his heritage and the Aleph Institute provided him with books about Judaism and a tallis and tefillin.
They invited him to participate in correspondence courses and their pen pal program.
Sarah reports that her husband is now a senior member of the prison's Jewish congregation, “We are both grateful to Aleph for this, as his active participation in the Jewish services and his leadership responsibilities have made a great difference to him spiritually, and to his morale and sense of self.”
Rabbi Aaron Lipsker, who has directed the Aleph Institute for the last 8 years, lives by the motto: “A Jew is a Jew regardless of his environment.” He adds, “Prisoners are treated as individuals at all points in the experience,” from free legal counseling given before and during trial to programs designed to reintegrate ex-prisoners into society after their release.
“Regardless of what they have done, we are not in a position to judge the prisoners, but to provide them with what they need.”
The Aleph Institute works with more than five hundred local, State and Federal prisons in the United States and provides learning “Regardless of what they have done, we are not in a position to judge the prisoners, but to provide them with what they need.” opportunities, moral support and everything needed to observe both Jewish holidays and everyday mitzvot.
While Jews comprise a very small segment of the prison population (1,700 compared to a total 1.5 million prisoners in the United States) every effort is made to ensure that these Jewish prisoners know that they have not been forgotten.
Yeshiva students regularly visit inmates to listen to their stories, share a Torah thought, or provide a special care package for an upcoming holiday.
While it is difficult taking on the role of sole caretaker of her family, Sarah continues to find hope, support and strength through Aleph's support programs and has channeled her creativity into designing greeting cards for prisoners and their families. Yakova Baum, of the Aleph Institute, encouraged Sarah in this effort, and facilitated the correspondence between Sarah and her husband during his incarceration.
“I had forgotten who I was and what I am capable of doing,” said Sarah. “The Aleph Institute's and Yakova's encouragement opened the door and the group activity let the sun back into my heart.”
7 Ways to Help Your Loved One in Prison
Sep 25, 2016 · 3 min read
The response to my 10 Ways to Adapt to Prisonwas extraordinary, and I was particularly moved by the many comments from readers who have a loved one in prison. Your sentiments inspired me to create the following list of ways you can support an imprisoned friend or loved one. If there’s something I left off, be sure to tell me!
1. Keep us in your life. Contact, even if it’s sporadic or just a card once a year on our birthday, help us remember that we’re more than a prison ID number. If we’re completely cut off from the world, we rely on prison politics for emotional stimulation, and the results aren’t pretty.
2. Don’t hesitate to talk to us about your great and exciting times. You might think that you’re torturing us by describing the wonderful meal you enjoyed while we eat garbage. But we live vicariously through you. Tell me about bacon cheeseburgers and pizza.
3. Share your troubles. We prisoners don’t have a monopoly on suffering, and sometimes we need to be reminded that you’re dealing with bills and work and family obligations and health issues. You might be surprised how compassionate and understanding we can be.
4. Send pictures of home. It’s sometimes hard for us to remember the world beyond these walls. Pictures of you, even in everyday locales (especially everyday locales?), take us on a vacation prison.
5. Remember our birthday. Prisoners often say, “My birthday is the same as any other day.
” But countless friends have blatantly shown me their ID card, pointing to date of birth (of course, I’m a pretty good cook, and they were hoping for a meal).
J One year, my uncle added my name to the birthday cake — I shared a birth month with four family members — took a picture, and sent it to me. I cried when I received that picture.
6. Every now and then, make us feel a rock star at mail call. If you ever went to camp, you know that getting a bunch of letters makes you the envy of your peers.
If you don’t feel going to the post office, ask us if we can send you stamps — they float around prison as currency, and we can sometimes buy them from each other at discount.
Write a bunch of letters, print funny memes, drop a few pictures; put them in separate envelopes, keep them in your car maybe, mail them throughout the week.
7. Engage our brains. The nature of prison is for us to feel powerless and less than. To the system, we are inmates, utterly lacking in knowledge. But you know better, right? We’re inveterate consumers of news, for one. Ask us our take on the issue of the day. Or, try reading a book or article simultaneously, engaging in a small book club throughout the day.
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What to Do When Someone You Love Goes to Jail
Do you know someone who has recently been put into jail? Are you feeling overwhelmed, confused, angry, upset, or depressed? These feelings and emotions are completely normal.
Having someone you love go into jail is an awful situation to experience; It's as if you've lost someone but they are still alive.
It's hard to describe it to someone who hasn't experienced it.
You may notice yourself going through somewhat of a grieving process. Allow yourself to fully experience all emotions and feelings regarding the situation, and seek guidance or counseling if necessary. The person in jail might need you now more than ever. So, allow yourself to start a healing process, and then do what they may need of you. Here are some useful tips below:
Beware, visiting someone in jail is stressful and annoying. Be prepared to do a lot of waiting. Every correctional institution is different but they all have their own rules and guidelines regarding visitation. There are, most ly, specific days of the week and times when visits are allowed. And there will probably be a dress code too.
I have a family member in jail, and I've been visiting her for about 8 years now. I can only visit her on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, or Sundays, and the hours are in blocks of 3-4 hours (twice a day). I'm not allowed to wear jeans, tank tops, or jewelry (except an engagement/wedding ring).
There are tons of other attire restrictions as well. My average wait-time to get in and see her is about 2 hours. By that time, I'm usually tired, hungry, and thirsty. So, as I said before, be prepared.
Hopefully, my family member will be jail in 2-3 years so I won't have to deal with visitation “annoyances” ever again.
If the jail you are going to visit has a website, check it out! You should be able to find all the information you need on there.
Your loved one in jail will most ly call you at some point. The calls are initially made “collect” but a phone account can be set-up on either end. I set-up a phone account through my cell phone to save my family member some money, and also because I don't have a home phone so I can't receive collect calls.
How the phone account usually works is that you will receive a call from your loved one; it will be an automated message. It should allow you to set-up an account or add money to an existing account. In the state that I live in (MA), it allows me to put money on my phone account in increments of $25.
So, when my family member calls in, she doesn't have to worry about paying for the call. The phone account is very useful for people who plan on being in prison for a long period of time; most people who are only in jail for a small amount of time will usually just call collect.
But it's really a matter of preference, convenience, and money availability.
Your loved one may need you to send money. In MA, we can only send money in the form of a cashier's check or money order; cash and personal checks are not allowed. Also in MA, you are only allowed to send money to someone that you personally visit in jail. So, my family member couldn't tell me to send money to one of her new friends in jail.
Guidelines and policies regarding phone accounts and money-sending in your state (or even country) may be different than the state I live in. It's always important to find out how these things operate beforehand so that you don't get overwhelmed and frustrated.
Again, this is a heart-wrenching and stressful time for you. But it's even worse for the person inside the prison. He/she needs your support, love, and guidance. They need to be kept on the right-track and they need to stay positive. So, make sure you are an active force in their life.
It can get very lonely in jail, especially at the beginning, when they don't know anyone yet. Encourage your loved one to participate in programs within the jail, such as groups, counseling, school classes, employment, etc. Going suddenly from the outside world into prison can be hard for the body and mind to handle.
So it's important for them to try to maintain some normalcy and regular routines into their new, and hopefully temporary, reality.
Give your loved-one Hope!!
Loving Someone in Prison
Many of us are here looking for support in others going through the same thing if not something similar. We all start with asking the same questions, how are we going to make it without him/her gone.
We come to realize that it doesn't matter how long they are gone even if its months, years or even life – we have to all deal with the separation anxiety and that they were ripped our everyday life and being placed in a strange and scary place.
Patience is not just a virtue it's a necessity in a prison relationship. Patience with the person incarcerated, patience with the DOC/BOP and patience with the people around you who might not understand what you're going through. I never knew how much patience I had until I had to live this lifestyle myself.
Be sure to show your love on good days and bad days. I've always bottled up my feelings in our relationship but now that he is incarcerated we tell each other everything. Always be honest.
Since technology is so big nowadays we have J-pay or corr-links which is an emailing system to keep in contact with your loved ones. I always write him handwritten letters at least once a week. Getting a handwritten letter will mean so much to them! Hearing their name at mail call will surely make their day!
Always keep a notebook by you or by the phone. 15 minute phone calls go by fast when you have a lot to say. Throughout the day write what you would to say to him/her that way you can discuss important topics you want to talk about.
Inmates only get 300 minutes per month, 400 during November and December. Be sure to limit phone calls and add up minutes so they can last the whole month. Local phone calls are about 0.06 cents a minute, those 300 minutes would cost about 18$ per month. For long distance calls cost 0.
21 cents per minute, those same 300 minutes would cost about $63 per month.
Another thing is to not overreact or overthink the situation if he doesn't call you as planned. One thing I've learned is to expect the unexpected. The facility that they are at might tend to go on lockdown at any given moment. Try not to overthink everything, you can always call the jail/prison and ask them what's going on.
Visit days are what keeps us strong! My fiancé is currently in a federal prison. Before you can visit you have to fill out a visiting form and mail it to the jail/prison and make sure they have you on his/her visiting list.
Unfortunately my fiancé is located 6 hours away. Weekly visits aren't reasonable for us but be sure to think about how you can be there for them while you are also there for yourself. It's not reasonable to drop your social life in order to accept a phone call.
You want to be supportive but be realistic too.
Dress code: Look on the DOC/BOP site to see what you can and cannot wear.
Me, personally I have never went through this before and I don't have any family members that are incarcerated so when my fiancé went in I was desperate for help. So I joined a support group/website called Strong Prison Wives; it has helped me tremendously! There is so much support, even live videos to help you understand more about incarceration and relationships.
Always be sure to take care of yourself. you may feel the urge to take care of him/her but you have to remember to take care of yourself also. Eat right, exercise, keep in touch with friends and family, go to family events etc.
You might feel nobody understands and start to isolate yourself. It might be hard going to social events or family events without your loved one. It's important to keep in touch with friends and family.
Push through it and be strong, you got this!
5 Ways to Help Your Loved One (and Yourself) During and After Incarceration
April 29, 2019
Are you looking for ways to cope with emotional stress while your loved one or friend is incarcerated?
There’s no rule book when it comes to dealing with such a complicated situation, especially emotionally. But other stressful challenges in life, you can get through this, too.
We’ve put together five tips that we hope will help you and your incarcerated loved one or friend feel more connected:
1. STAY CONNECTED
Depending on the services available at your loved one’s facility, there are several ways for you to communicate to help you stay connected:
- Talking by Phone – Phone calls are the most popular way inmates connect with their support networks. This can be an effective tool to help you both stay updated on how each of you are doing.
- Sending Digital Messages – Similar to traditionally mailed letters, the simple act of receiving a message while in prison or jail can make your loved one’s day. (Sending photos, too, can help your loved one or friend feel even more connected to you and the outside world.)
- Scheduling Visits – Letters and phone calls are great, but in-person and video visits allow you to talk AND see your loved one or friend. These are great ways to connect when distance may feel an obstacle.
2. KEEP UP WITH CURRENT EVENTS
It can be challenging for your loved one or friend to keep up with current events and the latest news while incarcerated. Of course, you can always share news with them yourself when you communicate in person or via phone, message or video; some inmates, though, also have access to news applications to help them keep up with the outside world, such as the following popular news providers:
This premium service is available as a 7-day, 14-day, and 30-day subscription, funded by deposits to an inmate’s Debit Link account.
Visit our facilities page to see what’s available for your inmate.
3. LOOK FOR EDUCATION AND SELF-HELP RESOURCES
Without education, inmates are more ly to engage in criminal activity after their release and may end up returning to prison or jail.
This is one of the reasons why ConnectNetwork offers training and educational resources to inmates who have access to tablets and education content at no extra charge.
These valuable courses and trainings have the potential to make a life-changing impact, so we encourage you to remind them of this free service.
ConnectNetwork offers over 165,000 pieces of education content, including:
- Self-Help Courses
- GED Prep Modules
- 20,000 Practice Exercises
- 7,000 Instructional Videos
In addition, we have courses focusing on:
- Life Skills
- Adult Basic Education
- Financial Literacy
- Employability Skills
- Substance Abuse
- Re-entry Support
Learn more about our education content and other related material.
4. SEEK SUPPORT AND ENCOURAGEMENT
Incarceration is difficult – not just for your loved one or friend, but for you as well. Everyone needs support and encouragement from time to time, and ConnectNetwork wants to make sure that you and your loved one or friend have access to the resources you both need.
For loved ones with subscription-based accounts, they can access apps such as these (where available):
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Fathering in 15 (from the National Fatherhood Institute)
If you’re looking for some support right now, you might find these inspirational quotes helpful.
5. PREPARE FOR A LOVED ONE’S RE-ENTRY
Re-entering society is an exciting time for your incarcerated loved one and their friends and family, but that doesn’t mean they don’t still need support. Rest assured, there can be steps to help you both prepare for this new life together.
Prison Fellowship offers “Eight Ways to Prepare for a Loved One’s Re-Entry.”
You may also find “3 Ways Employment After Prison Can be Achieved” helpful, as well as “Sharp Dressed Man,” which provides useful tips for male inmates who want to re-join the workforce post-release. In addition, your loved one’s facility may also provide resources to help them prepare for successful re-entry.
Want to Connect with Your Inmate Now?
Still have suggestions?
Please keep your comments coming. We value your feedback! Give Feedback
The information provided in this article is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions.
Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have if you are experiencing depression or any other medical condition.
GTL does not control or take responsibility for the content or information on any external website not managed by GTL.
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6 Things to Do to Make Prison Life Bearable for a Loved One – Halt.org
Having your loved one imprisoned is never a good experience, either for the convicted and the people who support him/her through the ordeal.
Life inside a prison though not inhuman is not exactly a bed of roses either. Inmates usually have to let go of a lot of privileges such as their right to privacy and freedom.
Also, the living conditions and accommodations inside a cell is not exactly hospitable let alone luxurious.
In such taxing times, you become a pillar of support for your loved one. Check out the details of the prisoners at PrisonFinder.com to get accurate information about the jail, the term and the case procedure of an inmate. Here are a few things you can do for your loved one to make prison life a bit more bearable.
Keep in Touch
The worst thing that you can do is to ignore your loved one after he/she has been convicted. It is during these tough times that your presence really matters. So, ensure that you keep in contact with them, even if it’s an occasional visit with a monthly card. Prison inmates deserve to be treated as people too, and not just be limited to their prison ID numbers.
Prisoners who are completely isolated from social life outside resort to indulge in the world of prison politics for emotional stimulation. And more often than not, it leads to disastrous consequences. Try to contact them as much as possible.
Visit them during the visiting hours, talk to them about what’s happening outside, listen to their woes, but most importantly, just be there- it means the world to them.
Keep Them Entertained
The somber, solemn atmosphere of the jail interspersed with silences can be quite suffocating for the inmates. Life inside the prison is monotonous and depressing, to say the least. You can make their days a bit brighter, albeit only for a while by engaging them in interesting conversations. Keep them updated on the occurrences of the real world.
Of course, all your visits are monitored by prison officials, so you’re not supposed to smuggle information that might be against the rules of the facility. An empty mind is a devil’s workshop, more so when one is trapped in the hellish cells of a prison facility.
Involve them in your day to day life, read books to them, talk about current affairs, engage their brains in something worthwhile.
Send Some Gifts
Some prisoners are allowed to receive gifts, letters, and books from their loved ones. Those trapped in solitary confinement cannot enjoy this privilege.
Here are some important rules that you should follow when sending a gift to an inmate. Letters may seem an insignificant thing to the layman, but for the incarcerated, letters are the lifeline they hang on to.
Listed below are a few rules you must adhere to so as to avoid a tussle with the officials;
- Never use staple clips or paper clips
- Refrain from using markers, crayons, glitters and lipstick on both the letter and the envelope
- Avoid using perfume or any fragrance
- Don’t draw any markings or codes on the letter as they might be interpreted as a secret message by the authorities
- Books and magazines (if allowed) have to be new and soft covered copies with the inmate’s name and prison ID mentioned clearly on the packet.
- The gifts and parcels are intercepted by the prison staff, never write intensely private things in the letters, things you wouldn’t want any third-party to read.
Share Your Joys
Most people don’t realize this but life inside a prison cell is extremely boring and uneventful. The prisoner’s daily routine is cut out for them, repeating in the same monotonous trajectory of working, doing community service, counselingand other activities. Don’t hesitate to talk about the things that make you happy.
Spread a little joy in their lives by sharing silly anecdotes from your day. You might think you’re torturing them by sharing details about a wonderful meal or an amazing movie, but it only brightens their day- the inmates live their lives through you.
The best way to make their living in a prison bearable is to remind them of all the positive things about the world, give them something good to think about when times get tough.
Share Your Troubles
Prison life may be hard, but the convicts don’t have a monopoly over suffering. And sometimes it becomes difficult for them to imagine a world beyond the four-square walls of their little cells.
Share bittersweet memories with them, show them pictures of their family members, share stories about the ordinary things they’re doing- it’s the most precious gift you can bestow upon them- a semblance of normalcy amidst all the chaos.
Also, prisoners are great listeners, most of them have a compassionate ear about the bills you’ve to pay and the family obligations that weigh you down. Sharing your troubles with them makes them feel needed and valued- a feeling they don’t often get to feel inside the jail.
Make them feel important
Confinement of any sort can be stifling, especially if someone is jailed in a compact, dingy cell with other inmates. One of the best ways to cheer them up would be to make them feel important and needed. Plan a surprise visit, send them lengthy letters and pictures of the things you’re doing.
Make them feel involved in your life even though they’re not physically present with you right now. Something as simple as remembering their birthdays and sending them a thoughtful message speaks volumes. Contrary to popular belief, not all prisoners are cruel people with cold hearts.
Some, though guilty of their crimes, are more a victim of their circumstances than choices.
The Bottom Line
Prison life is tough, the loneliness, the confinement, the utter lack of human contact can trigger anxiety and acute depression in some convicts. In such troubled times, the presence of a loved one can work wonders in helping the prisoner cope with his jail term. Sometimes all they need is a reassuring glance, a loving smile and a silent encouragement to get through their despair.
10 Ways to Support Friends and Family Members in Prison
Person standing behind bars
The first time someone in my family was incarcerated, I was in grade school.
My mom didn’t know that I had overheard her phone conversations, so I said nothing – this was my secret.
Unfortunately, by the age of ten, I witnessed mothers, fathers, aunts, uncles, and siblings of my friends become incarcerated as well.
Some people were incarcerated for being undocumented in the US. Others were locked up for being found with weed in public, and some for not paying $1.50 on the train because, simply put, they couldn’t afford it.
But honestly, even with incarceration-facilitated loss being such a significant part of my life and community, I didn’t know the impact it would have on me in the long run.
By the age of ten, I was ashamed to have family members in prison and refused to tell anyone. I was also scared by the reality that all of my friends (who were predominantly undocumented) were having their families ripped apart.
I, many others, didn’t have an analysis on the ways in which the prison-industrial complex works to target people of color, specifically, Black, Indigenous, poor, immigrant, disabled, trans, and queer communities.
Because I was so fearful of the stigma that comes with incarceration, I refused to open up to anyone. This debilitating fear of stigmatization created a cycle of silence and prevented me from accessing support from my own community.
When I was younger, the last thing I was thinking was: How do I support my community who has been incarcerated?
The truth is, I wasn’t in a position to fully show up for my family and friends who were incarcerated. As an adult, however, I have realized that I grew up in a community that was constantly terrorized by the police.
We were living in a constant state of anxiety, violence, and grief, and I struggled to actively be in solidarity and perform acts of allyship for incarcerated people in my life. And I couldn’t support my friends dealing with incarceration of their families either.
To this day, I still find myself stuck sometimes. I have to remind myself that feeling guilty or awkward won’t really change much. At these times, I have to think through the different resources I have at the moment and consider different ways I can show up for my incarcerated community.
In light of such tiring times, I want you to know that you aren’t alone.
You have a right to your confusion and frustration. You have the right to be angry. You have the right to have questions, and I hope you’ll allow me to give you some initial answers.
There are many ways in which we can support our friends, family, lovers, and mentors who are incarcerated.
For me, showing up was a process, and it will continue to be a process until the prison system is abolished.
There is no manual on how to actively show up for someone who has been incarcerated because everyone’s situation differs (you may be undocumented, you may be under eighteen, you may not have access to a phone, car, Internet, and so on).
However, the following list includes some practical ways we can show up for those who have been incarcerated. Not every suggestion in this list may be accessible to you at this exact moment (because, let’s be honest, the impact of capitalism is real).
But this is knowledge I’ve learned over the past few years in supporting, or failing to support, people in my life.
1. Send Money If Possible
I know it sounds so simple, but in practice, it’s a step that many of us don’t take.
Sending people money in prison is important because without money, it becomes incredibly difficult to get access to stamps, envelopes, or phone cards, which are all used for communication.
Sometimes, a person in prison needs to send a lawyer a written statement. How else would the person do it without a phone card, or access to paper, stamps, and envelopes?
In addition, money is also helpful in buying tuna, microwavable soups (which are upscale alternatives to the food received in prison, so I’ve heard), toothpaste, brushes, and so on.
The first time I deposited money into someone’s account, I had to chase down their full name, their booking number, and how much the person already had in their account so that I wouldn’t exceed their maximum funds’ limit.
However, once I located all this information, it took less than five minutes to process the deposit.
Don’t fear the process.
2. Answer Their Calls
Did you know that if someone who is incarcerated is calling you, and you are able to answer without paying anything, it means that the inmate has paid with their own money for that call?
I didn’t know that. Heck, I didn’t even know that I could open an account to receive calls and not have my family members, friends, or mentors waste their money.
When I first began being present in the lives of community members who were incarcerated, I would always hesitate in answering calls. The reality is that I didn’t want to not have something to say.
This means that I was making the situation about me and my discomfort to not have the right words as opposed to about the ways in which my community was oppressed by the prison industrial complex.
I had to let go of that discomfort – because the people calling me are human.
They have experiences they want to share. They take pleasure in exchanging stories. And they play an incredible role in my life.
3. Write Them Letters
Because calling is expensive – and not everyone has the money to deposit money into the beast that is the prison industrial complex – writing letters is a fantastic alternative.
The first time I wrote a letter to a friend, I sketched a photo, painted the photo, and mailed it out. A week later, the letter was returned.
Apparently, I had violated the rules by using a chemical formula that is most commonly known as paint from the 99-Cent store.
Before you write letters, make sure you visit the website of the facility where your family member, friend, mentor, or community member is housed. Some facilities will have more nuanced rules than others, but generally, they are equally bureaucratic.
In your written letters, catch them up on your life, ask questions, and share local and national news.
4. Visit Them in Prison
People need intimate human interaction.
Over the years, I’ve noticed myself failing to show up by visiting those in my life who are incarcerated.
Sometimes, my reality is that I don’t have access to transportation that can take me to the locations I need to get to, but I’ve learned to ask. I have friends who want to help me visit my family members, friends, and mentors and will take a few hours of their day to accompany me.
However, before I got to the point where I just blatantly asked people to drive me, I had to get over my fear of going inside a jail/prison/detention center.
I was terrified, because after having been undocumented for almost two decades, I knew that I risked my own incarceration by going inside a federal government building. Now, as I write this, I recognize that I have incredible privilege by being a green card holder.
However, if you are a US citizen or resident and going inside a jail/prison/detention center will not trigger your mental health, it’s time to begin to face our fear of the establishment.
Our community needs us.
Often, inmate rights are violated. And those who are undocumented, transgender, mentally ill, and disabled are more ly to be forced to live in solitary confinement.
Now, the most important part is to continually visit.
We must remember that as people who aren’t incarcerated, we have a particular privilege of having the ability to experience a diversity of human interactions on a daily basis.
Our community members don’t.
5. Ask Them If They’ve Made Friends in Prison and Visit Them, Too
Once you’ve gotten the hang of the process that is visiting someone in prison (which will include some mental preparation and self-reflection afterward), you’ll be ready to take the next step: visiting their friends.
Ask them if they’ve met anyone else who they would you to visit. There are many people who, after the first few months, stop receiving visits from their family, friends, and/or partners.
You can change that.
I would suggest you bring a friend, so that you can visit someone new, and your friend can visit the person who you’ve been visiting.
This is how community is built.
What’s important is that you genuinely put in the work. Allyship and solidarity are actions, not just theoretical concepts.
6. Remind Them That They’re Powerful and Resilient
After one of my closest friends was sent to a federal high-security prison – having already been imprisoned in solitary confinement at an immigration detention center – my friend began to experience doubts about her value and self worth.
We need to remind those inside that they are powerful and resilient for surviving inside a system that is meant to kill us.
In the case of imprisonment (read: captivity), power can look getting up in the morning. Power can also look deciding to call someone if you’re allowed.
Power can also look filing a complaint against a guard. It can look choosing not to speak at all. Power can look participating in a hunger strike or creating your own makeup.
The point is that our incarcerated community is powerful and resilient. Every moment that passes, they’re demonstrating to us that resistance is possible.
Don’t take their existence lightly. What our incarcerated community has been doing is creating a blueprint for all of us to follow on how to fight, resist, and survive when the state attempts to fool us into thinking we can’t.
Yes we can.
7. Tell Them About Your Life
They want to know how you’re doing, too.
When I began to communicate with family and friends in prison, I felt awkward. I didn’t want to share much about my life, let alone my sex life, or what I did for leisure.
I felt this way because I knew that they didn’t have the same privileges as me: People who are in prison can’t pick-and-choose their bedtimes, meals, hours spent in the sun, and so on. So I felt that I shouldn’t share those aspects of my life.
I was wrong.
One of my mentors who is currently in an immigration detention center constantly asks me about what I’m doing for fun. They lecture me on how I need to let go and enjoy life because, the reality is, no matter how oppressed I am, there are still moments of joy to indulge in.
In fact, some of those moments of joy are parts of my highly awkward and quirky dating life, which I have gotten quite used to sharing.
You see, the world doesn’t stop when someone is incarcerated, so you must not hold back in what you share.
When you share your life experiences, you might be quite surprised by everything your family member, friend, mentor, partner, or community member will tell you.
I’ve learned a lot about their lives, what they’re thinking about, and all those funny, enraging, curious, awkward, and just plain, obscure interactions or stories they’ve encountered when I invite them into the intimate moments of my life.
8. Exchange Jokes
As I said in the previous point, we need to find moments of joy and indulge in them.
My first time going to visit a friend, I was awkward and quiet. I didn’t know what was appropriate. I wondered: Do I talk about the case? Do I ask them what they need? Do I smile? Can I tell a joke?
You know, every time I’ve gone to see someone, I notice that they’re as happy to see me as I am to see them. We get to pick up where we last left off.
Sometimes, that may be completing a half-finished joke from my previous visit.
What I’m trying to say is, we need to not treat our community members as if they have no feelings. It’s okay (and highly encouraged) to share jokes, exchange smiles, and share joy.
9. Learn About Anti-Prison Organizing – And Share It with Them
It’s important for you to learn that there are communities actively working toward abolishing the prison system.
Whatever state you are in, research what organizations are doing, and share it with those in your life who are in prison. They need to know that they’re not alone, and that people are working on their behalf.
The prison system is not a transformative tool for our communities.
In fact, it is the opposite. The system is setup to tear apart communities and to destroy people’s spirits.
We need the spirit of abolition in order to continue resisting.
10. Open Up to Others About Your Loved One in Prison
At the end of the day, you can’t do this alone.
You’ll need support from your local community.
It’s important for us to share what we know about the prison system. We need to uplift the stories of those who are in our lives, and share the knowledge that we’ve learned.
Yes, it’s scary to think about opening up to people about having family members, friends, mentors, and/or a partner in prison, but what we need to do is shift culture.
People who are imprisoned are often stigmatized as criminals, dangerous, aggressive, social exiles, and much more – even after they’ve served their sentences.
However, you and I know that there are many reasons why people have been targeted and incarcerated, which is why opening up may be the next step to take in our journey.
Alan Pelaez Lopez is a Contributing Writer for Everyday Feminism and an Afro-Indigenous migrant from Oaxaca, Mexico. They write essays, poetry, and non-fiction pieces on Blackness, queerness and immigration.
Alan is currently pursuing a PhD in Ethnic Studies and is a member of Familia: Trans, Queer Liberation Movement. Connect via their website, Instagram, , and check out their jewelry store. Read their articles here.