It doesn’t matter if you’ve been incarcerated once or three times, jail can be a scary and nerve-wracking place. Just to give you a glimpse into the life of those incarcerated, they lose 99% of their contact with the outside world, they’re told what to do and when to do it, and they are forced to share a small cell with a complete stranger.
This is not a pleasant thought, but it is the reality that more than 2 million inmates face every day. That’s why it’s up to you, the loved ones of those incarcerated, to show support and help make their days a little brighter. We understand this can be hard to do, so we’ve come up with a few ideas to help you get started.
• Send Money – We know that budgets can be tight and money may not be readily available to send, but a little monetary contribution to their fund every now and then can a have a big impact on a loved one’s experience in jail. Without funds, they cannot make simple purchases such as a phone card, paper, or stamps. By having funds in their account they will also be able to purchase snacks, which is a great alternative to the food served in prison. It’s a simple process and can be completed over the phone simply by knowing their full name and booking number.
• Visit Often – There are a million ways to spend your Saturday and visiting a loved one in jail probably isn’t at the top of your list, but it should be. It’s understandable that scheduling a visit can’t be done every weekend, but you should try to make it a priority to visit loved ones as often as you can. If you can’t go, find a family friend that is free that day and see if they can stop by. You would never believe what a simple visit from a familiar face can do for an inmate’s mental health.
• Write Letters – This is probably the easiest suggestion on the list because it’s one that you can do in your own time and is super cheap to do. If you can, write them a letter once a week and tell them about what is going on in your life, about different things that are happening within the family, and catch them up on local news. In fact, you can include small pictures of loved ones.
• Don’t Ignore Their Calls – The ability to make a phone call is a big deal to an inmate because in order to make a call they may have to wait in a long time for an open phone line and use valuable or limited funds. We understand that sometimes you’re busy and unable to answer their call, but just by answering, saying hello, and scheduling a time to have a later conversation you can make their day a little brighter.
• Show An Interest In Their Life – If time and money are a problem, this suggestion is for you. When you do get the chance to talk to a loved one, whether it be on the phone or in a letter, ask them how they are doing. They might not have a lot happening, but chances are they will be eager to tell you about recreation, the latest gossip, or provide you with an update on their court case.
These may only be five simple suggestions to help provide support for a loved one in jail, but they are five suggestions that anyone can do. While these are great things to keep in mind for yourself, pass the ideas along to extended family members, friends, or your local congregation so they can reach out and show their support too.