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10 Ways to Support Family and Friends in Prison

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

10 Ways to Support Family and Friends in Prison

If you have a friend or family member in prison, having at least 10 ways to support your family and friends in prison may help you both.

People in Texas go to prison for many reasons. Some go to prison because they’re undocumented immigrants. Others are in prison because they used marijuana in public or failed to pay a bus or train fare.

A family member or friend in prison may deeply affect your life in the long run.

You may feel shame or deep sadness because their plight. You might not know how to talk about it. You may feel targeted and afraid because you and your loved one are persons of color, poor, trans, queer, immigrant, disabled, or indigenous community members.

However, it’s important to recognize that feelings won’t change your loved one’s circumstances. Use these suggestions to “show up” for him or her.

Do you have a loved one in prison?
Contact experienced attorney Greg Tsioros to see if they are parole eligible 

Suggestion #1: Send Money if Possible

Many people with loved ones in prison don’t do this.

Without money, he or she probably won’t get regular access to communications tools like stamps, phone cards, or envelopes. He or she might need money to contact an attorney by phone. He or she may need paper, a pen, envelopes and stamps to send urgently needed information through by mail.

Additionally, money is useful to purchase tasty snacks, e.g. microwave soup bowls. It’s also needed to buy personal care products, e.g. toothbrushes or toothpaste.

It can be challenging to deposit money into an inmate’s account. You will need his or her full name, booking number, and account balance (so you won’t exceed maximum fund limits). After you gather the information, it should take less than five minutes to complete the account deposit.

Suggestion #2: Answer Your Loved One’s Phone Calls

If a loved one in prison is making a phone call to you—and you can accept without accepting reverse charges—he or she paid money to place the call.

You might not know that.

You might not understand that you can open account to accept a loved one’s calls (and avoid his or her cost to place phone calls to you).

You might avoid answering a loved one’s calls from prison for simple reasons, e.g. “What should I say?”

When viewed this way, perhaps the problem stems from personal discomfort. You want the “right words” to say to him or her, and you don’t want awkward silences. You don’t want to say the wrong thing.

Realize that you and your loved one are human. You both have experiences to share. He or she wants to exchange stories and continue to be in your life.

Pick up the phone or take the call.

Suggestion #3: Write Letters to a Loved One in Prison

As above, it’s expensive for your loved one to make phone calls. Your friend or family member might not have an account to do so.

When exchanging stories by phone isn’t possible, don’t forget about sending him or her handwritten letters. This is an inexpensive and meaningful way to communicate.

Before sending your first letter, visit the facility website where your loved one is housed to learn the rules about sending letters.

In your letter, ask questions, share personal, local or national news stories, and (most importantly) catch him or her up on what’s new in your life.

Suggestion #4: Visit Your Loved One in Prison

Everyone needs human interaction. Visit your friend or family member in prison.

You may have transportation issues. Ask other friends and family to give you a ride to visit. Ask other friends and family to go with you.

Many people are afraid of entering a jail, detention center, or prison. For instance, if you’re undocumented, you may have reasonable fears of incarceration by entering a federal facility.

If you’re a citizen or resident and you have a loved one in prison, face your fear. He or she needs you now.
Inmate rights may be violated. Know that your decision to continually visit might lessen the possibility that your loved one’s rights will be violated.

Suggestion #5: Visit Your Loved One’s Friends in Prison

If your family member or friend has made new friends in prison, ask him or her if there’s anyone else they want you to visit. Some inmates don’t receive family, friend, or partner visits, so it’s possible for you to change that.

When you bring a friend or family member to the prison, send him or her to visit your friend or loved one so that you can visit your loved one’s friend.

This step builds good will, solidarity, and community.

Suggestion #6: Communicate Positive Messages to Your Loved One in Prison

People in prison often experience self-doubts. They question their value or self-worth to others.
Remind him or her that they’re resilient. They can survive.

In the example of imprisonment, your loved one’s personal power can take the form of making an outgoing call to you.

When you visit, write, call, or answer your friend or family member’s outgoing messages from prison, remind him or her how much you care. Talk about the future. Ask about what steps he or she is taking to better themselves, if possible, in this time.

Don’t forget about parole-eligibility!

Your loved one probably dreams about that day when he or she is eligible for parole in Texas.

And, if he or she becomes parole-eligible, remind your loved one that you’ll do everything within your power to help. Consider doing some research about qualified Texas parole lawyers to prepare your loved one’s parole packet when that time comes.

He or she probably won’t have the opportunity to convey anything to the parole panel in person. An experienced parole attorney will do what’s necessary to call attention to your loved one’s good record and positive plans for the future.

Suggestion #7: Talk about Your Life

Your loved one wants to know about what’s happening in your life. Tell him or her how you’re doing.
Tell them about school, job, dating, or anything you do for fun. He or she can share your moments of joy.

Don’t hold back. Invite your loved one to share your thoughts, perspectives, and perceptions.

Suggestion #8: Share Jokes

Look for laughter and share it with your loved one in prison.

Your friend or family member is probably as happy to see you as you are to see him or her. Pick up exactly where you left off in a call, visit, phone call, or letter.

Most people love to exchange smiles. It’s one of the best ways to support your friend, family member, mentor, or lover in prison.

Suggestion #9: Open Up about Your Friend or Family Member in Prison

It’s difficult to support your loved one in prison all by yourself. Enlist the support of others from your friends and family to bring as much joy to him or her as possible.

It may feel scary to discuss your experience (and your loved one’s experience in prison). Consider it. Opening up is a great way to rid yourself of any shame or fears about your loved one in prison.

Suggestion #10: Home, Birthday, and Passing the Time

Your loved one’s home may change over time. It’s possible to forget the little things.

Perhaps, on your loved one’s birthday, you take pictures of his or her favorite home space with a big sign that says “I love you.”

If your loved one likes to read, send books, newspapers, and magazines from home.

Schedule a consultation to see if your loved one is eligible for parole »

Resources for You

Prison is difficult for everyone involved. You must exert energy to maintain a strong relationship with your loved one.

The following books can help you and your loved one in prison:

  1. “Doing Time Together: Love and Family in the Shadow of the Prison,” by Megan Comfort.
  2. “Family Arrested: How to Survive the Incarceration of a Loved One,” by Ann Edenfield.
  3. “Help! My Loved One is in Prison,” by Louis N. Jones.
  4. “How to Love and Inspire Your Man after Prison,” by Michael B. Jackson.
  5. “Incarcerated but Free: How to Find Freedom from Your Mental Prison,” by Monique Pettaway-Ray.
  6. “Learning to Sing in a Strange Land,” by Wesley Stevens.
  7. “Letters to an Incarcerated Brother,” by Hill Harper.
  8. “Sentenced, Now What?” by Lennie Spitale.
  9. “When You Have to Go to Prison,” by Margaret R. Kohut.
  10. “Arrested: What to Do When Your Loved One’s in Jail,” by Wes Denham.
  11. “Before Amen: The Power of Simple Prayer,” by Max Lucado.
  12. “Beyond Loneliness,” by Trevor Hudson.
  13. “Chicken Soup for the Soul,” by Jack Canfield, Victor Hansen, Susan M. Heim.
  14. “Daily Light on the Daily Path,” by the Samuel Bagster Family.

Contact an Experienced Texas Parole Lawyer

Supporting a family member or friend in prison is challenging for many. Do everything possible and within your means to help and support your loved one.

If we can help you and your loved one prepare for the future, including parole eligibility questions and concerns, contact The Law Office of Greg Tsioros at 832-752-5972.

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