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Tips to Help Someone Adjust to Life After Prison

Parole Law Blog by The Law Office of Greg Tsioros

Tips to Help Someone Adjust to Life After Prison

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About one out of every three adults in America say that they fear being alone, yet every person who gets incarcerated has to face this reality every day while behind bars.

Prisoners must adapt to life on the inside to survive. These natural adaptations often hinder them once they’re on the outside, though. Are you wondering how to help your loved one cope once they’re released?

Discover our seven best tips for helping your loved one adjust to life after prison below.

1. Empathize with Your Loved One

What’s the number one thing you can do to help your loved one? Empathize with what they’ve gone through. The last thing they need is to emerge from their seclusion into the arms of judgmental loved ones.

The situation your loved one has gone through was likely rough on their psychological state. The abnormal conditions of imprisonment likely resulted in several coping methods that won’t translate well to life outside of jail.

Most notably, prisoners often consider aggressiveness or anger as beneficial protective methods while behind bars. Outside of jail, these traits will only become a hindrance. Identify these types of emotions and consider why your loved one is responding in the way that they are.

The lens of empathy will help you be better prepared for when your loved one responds unexpectedly or acts differently than before they went to jail. It will also help your loved one feel safe, heard and respected.

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2. Help Your Loved One Set Achievable Goals

Once your loved one gets released, they’ll likely experience an initial culture shock. While in jail, someone else is dictating what you can do 24 hours a day. Your meals are planned out, your outside time is on a strict schedule and lights out means lights out. There’s no negotiation.

Your loved one may get overwhelmed by all their choices and responsibilities once they first get out of jail. You can’t expect them to immediately get a job, rent out a home and reintegrate into society. Instead, help them set small but realistic goals.

Help your loved one update their resume, build up their career skills or start hunting for a job. Help them look over their finances and housing options. Remember, set the bar to an achievable level when setting these goals.

3. Get Your Loved One Involved

Again, it’s unrealistic to expect a former inmate to instantly get settled into a career. Instead, help get your loved one involved in family and community events. Building up social bonds is an important factor when it comes to recidivism. Former inmates who feel more connected to family, friends and their community are much less likely to end up back in jail.

Consider doing some volunteer work with your loved one or getting them involved in support groups. A support group is immensely helpful, especially when it’s full of other former inmates.

If you’re looking for this type of group for your loved one, then you may want to contact the correctional facility where they’re incarcerated. Often, jails can help direct you to the perfect types of groups your loved one needs.

4. Develop New Habits and Hobbies with Them

While locked up, your loved one didn’t have many options for recreational activities. They may have found a new passion for working out or reading. If they’ve developed these types of hobbies, then it’s important to help them build on these positive habits once they’re on the outside.

It’s also a good idea to introduce your loved one to new habits and hobbies. Not only will this help them refrain from going back to old habits, but it will also help them build bonds with you and other individuals taking part in the activity.

5. Help Them Build a New Future

When someone is incarcerated, the majority of their thoughts center around getting free. While this goal is important, it can be disorienting when it’s achieved. Suddenly, your loved one won’t have any type of goal to look forward to. Setting achievable goals and building new habits will help, but it’s also important to assist them in making this new future a reality.

Make sure you include your loved one in your future plans and goals, too. This type of action will generate positive feelings like hope and help keep them out of trouble.

6. Make Time to Ensure They’re Taking Care of Themselves

It’s not unusual for former inmates to experience social isolation and depression after they’re released. If your loved one just got out of jail, then take the time to visit them regularly. Ask them direct questions to ensure they’re taking care of themselves. Make sure your loved one is:

  • Getting enough sleep
  • Going grocery shopping and cooking meals
  • Drinking enough water
  • Taking care of their hygiene and health
  • Practicing self-care

While your loved one was incarcerated, they may have grown used to ignoring their feelings. They may initially struggle with common daily tasks, so keep an eye on them for those first few weeks.

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7. Consider Therapy if Possible

If you are financially able, then it’s advised you consider seeking out therapy for your loved one. Depending on the jail they were in, it’s possible they experienced abuse from either other inmates or correctional guards. They may have experienced traumatic situations that they aren’t ready to share with you just yet.

Even if they didn’t experience serious trauma, it’s likely that their body adjusted to living in an environment full of violence and fear. Once outside, they’re likely to experience recurring anxiety, hypervigilance and depression.

Helping Your Loved One Adjust to Life After Prison

On top of your loved one’s psychological and social struggles, they may have legal hurdles they still need to overcome after getting released from jail. Was your loved one released on parole or probation? If so, then they’ll still face several legal restrictions, and they may need to report to a parole officer.

It’s imperative that you and your loved one fully understand the terms and conditions of the release. If they were convicted of a felony, then it’s also important that they understand that they can’t vote or carry a firearm. A failure to comply with these terms could mean that your loved one gets sent right back to jail.

Do you have questions about the terms of your loved one’s release? Reach out to our office now if you need legal advice.

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