The arrest and incarceration of a loved one can be difficult for any family. This change can bring up uncertainty, fear, and sadness for everyone. Fortunately, there are some ways that you can cope with the incarceration of your family members and provide support to them, as well.
This guide will offer some key tips for preparing your family after the arrest and offering support during reentry. However, potential tools and resources do not stop here. Since each family will have a different experience while coping with incarceration, remember that organizations, churches, and other groups are available to help.
Steps to Take Before a Loved One Is Incarcerated
The period before your loved one goes to prison is critical. This is a time to prepare yourself and others for the reality of incarceration.
Discuss health needs
Before your loved one is incarcerated, you want to make sure that their health needs are covered. Contact the prison to discuss any conditions that your family member has and what medications they take. You want to ensure that your loved one has access to basic health care. Call your loved one’s doctor to obtain a written report of their medical conditions and prescriptions, and provide the prison with contact information for the doctor.
Explain the situation to children
One of the most difficult parts of incarceration is explaining it to children. Whether the child’s parent, sibling or more distant family member is going to prison, it’s important to help them understand. Having a clear picture of the arrest will help them adapt to these rapid changes. Consider purchasing a picture book about incarceration and why it occurs.
Be sure to talk about visiting the loved one and what they can expect during the visit. While it can be tempting to guard children against the reality of the situation, you can ease anxieties by keeping communications lines open. You should be especially open with older children who have access to the internet, as inmate search services can scan millions of records and provide information to those who look for it. You can keep them in the loop before they find out the information themselves.
Coping with incarceration and supporting your loved ones can take a toll on you. This is true whether you are able to visit your incarcerated family member or not. You can help yourself prepare for the transition and cope through the incarceration period by seeking help. This may mean seeing a therapist regularly or attending a support group for family members of incarcerated individuals. These resources can fill your toolbox and help you cope when your loved one is in prison.
How to Cope After Incarceration
It can be difficult to help your loved one re-enter society after incarceration, and your other family members may need support, as well.
Seek reentry resources
While you are likely feeling relieved that your family member is out of prison, this time period can be challenging. Your loved one may experience complex emotions of fear and uncertainty once they are out of the prison routine. You and your family members will also need to cope with this change. Prepare for this transition by learning more about reentry and talking about it in your support group.
Prepare for ups and downs
The reentry process is not easy. Your loved one may seem content one day and cause conflict the next. Remember that this is normal. You can’t expect life to pick up where you left off, so you and your loved one should make a plan together. This might include seeking job resources, going to therapy, or finding constructive hobbies. Realistic expectations can make the transition smoother.
Know when to get help
Some formerly incarcerated individuals may fall into unhealthy habits to cope with a challenging transition. In some cases, you may need to encourage them to seek help. For example, you might look into drug rehab in Los Angeles if your loved one has left the California prison system and started using drugs. Professional assistance for formerly incarcerated people can help them with this change, taking the responsibility off your shoulders.
The incarceration of a loved one is a challenging time, and this is true before, during, and after. With professional support and healthy coping mechanisms, you can help yourself and your loved ones through this period. All of the efforts will be worth it when your loved one is thriving outside of prison in the future.