How to deal with a loved one going to jail

How to deal with a loved one going to jail

T he response to my 10 Ways to Adapt to Prison was 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 out of 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 like 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 like 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.

Danner Darcleight is serving a 25 year to life sentence in an American prison. His memoir, “Concrete Carnival” is set for release in this month. If you liked this story, please recommend it and share on social media.

Grief When a Family Member is Incarcerated

I just returned to my office after a difficult morning in court. My client was sentenced to serve 25 years in prison for a crime that I believe does not merit such a harsh penalty. This is an aspect of my work that I dislike to say the least. Of course, I replay all my defense strategies in my mind, making sure that I did not fail my client along the way. I also try to comfort the family members in this time of grief. In all honesty, I cannot say that I know what they are experiencing because I have never lost a loved one in the criminal justice system. The only thing that I can imagine is that the pain is similar to the death of a loved one, only worse.

Today, I would just like to offer some words of advice on how to make it through the first months after your loved one is sentenced to a lengthy prison term. I really think that someone should create a support group for families who are coping with the incarceration of a loved one.

1) Take it one day at a time — Your body, mind and spirit are totally consumed with pain. Focus on today, tomorrow will come soon enough.

2) Drop the feeling of “normal” — Nothing is going to be normal for quite some time because what you are going through is not “normal.” As time moves forward, you will adjust and experience a new “normal”.

3) Brace yourself for many loses — The loss of a loved one in your daily life can start a domino effect of losses. Personal possessions will be given away. Relationships with friends and other family members may be strained. Don’t be alarmed if one loss seems to escalate until you feel overwhelmed.

4) Tell people what you need — people will not know how to relate to your loss. Be specific about your wants and needs. Ask for help.

5) Remember to eat — grieving affects the mind in many ways. It requires a lot of energy. You may not be hungry, you may forget to eat, but you need to keep your strength.

6) Sleep when you can — Your sleep most likely will be affected by your loss. You need sleep to function mentally and physically. Take a nap if you are tired. Try sleeping in a different place in the house if you cannot sleep in your bed. See your doctor is sleeplessness continues.

7) Crying is okay — Let the tears flow either when you are alone or in public. Crying is a natural outlet to grief.

8) Exercise every day — Exercising will help you deal with the multitude of emotions that are rippling through your body. It will also help you sleep at night.

9) Seek support early — Get support through family, friends or a grief counselor. You don’t have to walk through this alone.

10) Lean on your faith — If you are a spiritual person, remember to touch base with your faith. It will bring comfort, strength and internal wisdom. If you have no belief system, then get in touch with nature. The beauty of the world around us can be very soothing. Your faith will help your loved one cope better with being incarcerated.

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 like 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:


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 like an obstacle.


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:

  • ESPN
  • CNN
  • Fox News
  • NPR

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.


Without education, inmates are more likely 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


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):

  • Education
  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Careers
  • Fathering in 15 (from the National Fatherhood Institute)

If you’re looking for some support right now, you might find these inspirational quotes helpful.


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.

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?

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How to deal with a loved one going to jail

Preventing Suicide with Resources to Improve Wellbeing and Positivity

How to deal with a loved one going to jail

Recovery is For Everyone – Resources to Help Incarcerated Individuals and Returning Citizens on Their Journeys

Being arrested for a crime can definitely be one of the most traumatic events someone may face in their life. It can also be devastating for loved ones. In the blink of an eye, everything could change for the person being arrested and their family and friends. An arrest is extremely frightening for all involved.

In a flash, someone can go from a free person to a prisoner. Family and loved ones are forced into a new way of living. New prison accessories include handcuffs, chains and a uniform. Independence is stripped away and the arrested person is displaced from their home and separated from family and friends. It may feel like you’ve lost everything when you can see your freedom, your future, your identity and your hope slipping out of your hands. What is it like for the loved ones and children involved? Perhaps they’re overwhelmed with despair, fear and helplessness as well.

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.

Being arrested or serving a prison sentence doesn’t necessarily have to destroy your life or your family’s lives. If you have a loved one who has been arrested, the best way to beat the disorientation, distress and hopelessness is knowing how “the system” works and having the criminal defense team at Schulze Law on your side. Don’t delay and call us today to discuss your case.

How can families cope with the incarceration of a loved one? Trying to figure out what to do and where to start can feel overwhelming. Here are some steps to take to help if you and your loved ones are going through this situation.

Here’s a great list from Wiki on How To Deal With a Loved One Going to Jail:

Stay in the moment. If you start to think about all the years ahead without the person you love in your life, you’ll likely get overwhelmed. Instead, take it one day at a time, dealing with what each day brings you. Your body, mind and spirit may be struggling. So just focus on today.

Make a plan and a budget. If the person you loved provided part of the income for your household, you’re going to need to consider other options. Take a look at your budget to see what is necessary for you to survive. Jail can be expensive for those on the outside. From making phone calls to buying items at the commissary, your loved one will need money to help. Costs can add up quickly. Set a budget of how much you think you can reasonably spend per month, and stick to it.

Take care of yourself. This is a grieving process. You’re losing someone important in your life, and it’s important to grieve that person. But don’t forget you still need to take care of yourself. Try to sleep on a regular schedule, eat healthy meals, exercise and manage your stress.

Decide how often you can visit. Most jails limit how often you can visit. Decide how often you will be able to visit, so you and your loved one will know what to expect.

Make a plan about how you want to tell people. It can be difficult to decide how much to tell other people. Try to be consistent in what you say. It’s a personal decision on how you want to handle it.

Think about what you want to tell your children. One of the difficult decisions you may face when someone is imprisoned is what to tell the children. This is your decision but it is widely acknowledged that children cope better when you are honest with them about what has taken place and where their loved one has gone. Be direct, and try to answer any questions they may have.

Find out the rules of visiting ahead of time . If possible, contact the jail so you know what to expect. For instance, you’ll likely be subjected to search. In addition, some jails only allow video conferencing, so you may not be able to actually hug the person. Most jails minimize physical contact, limiting it to a short hug at most. Knowing what to expect can take some of the tension out of it

Use calming techniques. Visiting someone in jail is stressful. If you find yourself anxious, try some calming techniques.

Don’t be surprised if the person lashes out. Being in jail is scary for everyone, and they may be afraid she’s losing you, too. Plus, they’re having to create a new life in a tense situation. Try to be understanding, but don’t let the person walk all over you, especially since you’re having a tough time, too.

Have support afterwards. Seeing your loved one in jail is going to be hard, and the whole experience of visiting a jail isn’t going to be fun.

Join a group. Many communities have support groups for people who find themselves with loved ones in jail. You might be able to find one through the court system. You can also try contacting local psychologists’ offices to see if they know of any groups.

Try a grief counselor. If a group setting isn’t for you, try a few one-on-one sessions with a grief counselor.

Set aside guilt. You may feel guilty that your loved one is in jail while you are not. Remember, that you did not make the same choices they did to land in jail, and all you can do now is support them.

Create a new “normal.” For awhile, your life is going to feel out of whack. With someone you love suddenly gone from your day to day life, you may feel a little lost. However, if you can just keep working through it, you’ll readjust to life without them, and life won’t feel so strange. Nothing is going to be normal for quite some time because what you are going through is not “normal.” As time moves forward, you will adjust and experience a new “normal”.

Tell people what you need — people will not know how to relate to your loss. Be specific about your wants and needs. Ask for help.

When someone you love goes to jail, it can have a massive impact on your life. You may have to grieve the loss of that person in your day-to-day life, as well as deal with any extra struggles his or her loss brings. You have to learn to navigate the maze of the criminal justice system and visiting the person in jail. It’s an extremely tough process but, you can learn to create a new life for yourself while your loved one is gone.

Dealing with a loved one in prison can be a challenge. You may be feeling anger, grief, guilt, betrayal, overwhelmed and isolated from the community. Assisting Families of Inmates recommends the following coping strategies to help alleviate some of these emotions.

Coping Strategies

  • First and foremost, don’t blame yourself. You are not responsible for the actions of your loved one.
  • Follow through on your own personal goals. Don’t put your personal well-being on hold. Even though it is hard to do, your life has to go on.
  • Find a balance in your caregiving and family responsibilities. Don’t focus all your energy on the incarcerated family member.
  • Set financial and emotional limits with your love one and set them early. Phone calls, visits and financial support for your loved one can easily get out of hand. Decide what you have time and the finances to do and stick to those limits.
  • Find close friends or other family members that you can turn to for support and understanding. Choose people you can talk to in safety.
  • Take advantage of community support groups such Al-Anon or Families Anonymous to gain support from others and learn ways of coping.
  • Continue with family routines and traditions. Celebrate holidays and find creative ways to involve your loved one.
  • Don’t hold on to unnecessary obligations or responsibilities for your incarcerated loved one. If it’s something that can be replaced later and adds undo burden on you, let it go.
  • If you are feeling controlled or manipulated by your loved one, understand that he is acting out of fear of losing you. Talk about these fears and provide reassurance.
  • Some of the most stressful times for your family will be right after arrest, transfer to a new facility, parole interviews and release. Be prepared. Talk about your concerns and fears openly and honestly. Try to have a back up plan in case things don’t work out the way you would like.
  • Media images of prison life can cause unwarranted fear for the well being of your loved one. Generally, life is only dangerous for those inmates who continue to make poor decisions for themselves and whom they associate with on the inside.

I would also add to this list finding support groups on social media outlets that you have goals and philosophies in common with. Some of these groups are private in case privacy is a concern to you.

Family or Friends Behind Bars Can be a Strain – Alex on
Dealing with a family member in prison can be a challenge for those left behind, who may feel anger, grief, guilt, betrayal, overwhelmed and isolation from the community.

Staying in touch with a family member in jail can be a heartbreaking and complicated thing. Not only is it difficult to keep in touch through unpredictable phone access and prison transfers; having a husband, wife, sibling, parent, child, friend, or other relative behind bars can be a devastating emotional experience. Your loved one can’t help you through this – in fact, he or she may be part of the problem – so it’s important to learn to give yourself the care and support you’ll need throughout this trying time.

Keeping in Touch with a Loved One in Prison
Keeping in touch, whether by in-person visits, phone calls or snail mail letters, can be a double-edged sword. It’s a virtual part-time job to figure out prison schedules and which days visits are allowed; phone calls can only be made out of the prison, not in; and even sending letters can get complicated when a prisoner is moved unexpectedly.

What’s more, people change and relationships change when you’re not able to interact naturally for an extended period of time – especially when something as loaded as crime and a prison sentence stand between you but can’t easily be discussed.

Grief and Loss for a Family Member Who’s Gone to Jail
According to the Victorian Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (VACRO) in Melbourne, Australia, the loss experienced by family members and those closest to someone who has been incarcerated is “similar to the death of a loved one.” You can still communicate, but it can feel like jail is a world away from daily life – and the person you loved may never seem the same after the crime he or she has committed.

When someone dies, people mourn and move on using rituals like a funeral and with the support of community and friends. But when a loved one goes to prison, that kind of acknowledgment and support is almost totally absent. In fact, the community and friends can be part of the problem if they lack sensitivity or blame the family along with the prisoner.

Guilt, Shame and the Social Stigma of Crime
If someone you love is in prison, it can be difficult to distance yourself from the guilt – and the social stigma – of what they’ve done. Woodville Community Services of Sydney, Australia, says that families of convicted offenders may feel they are somehow responsible for their loved one’s actions, or that they are sullied by their connection to someone in jail.

In addition to these kinds of recriminations from within, fear and the media’s portrayal of offenders can lead community, family, and friends to turn against those closest to an inmate. VACRO says, “you can feel you are being judged along side the offender.”

Supporting Yourself and Taking Care of Your Emotional Needs
Parents, children, spouses and partners in prison need your help and support – but equally (or more) important is learning to take care of yourself during this challenging time. You may feel confused, angry, lonely, ashamed, worried, desperate, and scared all at once, or in turn – all of these responses are normal and legitimate under the circumstances.

A few self-care tips from organizations that offer support to families of prisoners:

  • Find someone you can talk to honestly about how you feel, be it a counselor or a trusted friend, but don’t feel you have to tell everyone. Some people will respond with love and support while others will distance themselves, so learn to rely on those who are accepting and who offer help.
  • Give yourself permission to feel the way you do, even if that means feeling angry at your loved one for leaving you, or overwhelm at your life as it is now.
  • Take care of your survival needs and your emotional needs with at least as much care as you give to the emotional needs of your absent partner or loved one.
  • Seek financial support if the loss of your family member or partner’s income leaves you on shaky financial ground.
  • You may find it helpful to seek out online resources and forums for family members and loved ones of inmates. There are plenty of people going through the same thing you are, and it may help to share and read some of their stories.

Victoria Law Foundation, “VACRO Factsheet4: Living with a family member in prison,” Melbourne, Australia, January 7, 2009.
Woodville Community Services Inc., Pamphlet: “Do you have a family member in prison?”, Sydney, Australia, 2009.

How to deal with a loved one going to jail

1. Prepare yourself for the long haul. Understand that the first few hours following your loved one’s release, though critical, are just one tiny component of the process known as “reentry.” Reentry can last a lifetime and encompasses everything from education and counseling while in prison to the lifelong hurdles of finding housing and employment after release.

2. Be there physically when your loved one is released. Meet your loved one when he exits the facility or as he steps off the bus following release so he doesn’t reenter the community alone. Do this even if the plan is for him to stay elsewhere, so he knows he has support.

3. Help your loved one come up with a plan. Realize that your loved one needs to have a plan that addresses the most fundamental hurdles of securing housing and clothing, meeting with her probation officer, and meeting her medical needs when she gets released. And if she doesn’t have a plan, she needs to make one soon.

4. Be realistic about the transition. Try to have realistic expectations about life after release for your loved one. It’s not just a question of picking up where you left off. For example, his release plan must include a “home plan,” which means an address where that individual will live after being released.

5. Understand it might not go smoothly. Be ready to face some very real and significant readjustment issues.

6. Brace yourself for some kind of conflict. Chances are there might be a conflict or two, especially in the first few weeks.

7. Be careful not to take anything for granted. Communicate with correction officials, and find out what kind of track record your loved one has had during her time away.

8. Try not to enable your loved one. Help your loved one by doing things that he cannot do versus enabling him by doing things he could and should be doing.

9. Know where to get assistance. Find out if there are prerelease centers (one-stop shops for immediate assistance) before your loved one’s release.

10. Help your loved one follow up. Make sure your loved one follows up on supportive services through local, state, and county providers for counseling, medical, and case-management services as required for her release.

Here are a few articles that discuss the realities of prison release in more detail:

Camille Quinn is an assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Social Work. She’s the daughter of a Solo Mom and lives in Ohio.

How to deal with a loved one going to jailWhen a person commits a crime, it is expected that he has to live some part of his life in prison and become a prisoner. A prisoner is punished by taking away his freedom. Along with this punishment, his reputation and his old life are stripped away from him.

Love, relationships and marriage are highly affected once a person becomes a prisoner. There is a huge wall that hinders them from seeing each other, and if they do, their time is limited. It is possible that once a person becomes a criminal, his relationships also change. Because of these, the question can a love, relationship, or marriage survive jail often arise in the minds of prisoners.

Relationships in prison that survive

There are several love stories that can tell that love in prison is possible. There are some success stories that love, relationship, or marriage can survive jail.

One of these is the love story between Jeana Ramsey and Edward Johnson. Jeana Ramsey worked as a cook at the Miami Correctional Facility, while Edward Johnson was a prisoner there. The two met at the chow line.

When Edward Johnson was released in 2001, the couple lived together. Even though they have a successful love story, the two had become involved in the murder of two bank tellers, which led them back to prison and serve for several years.

Another successful love story is between Daniel Genis and Petra Szabo. Daniel and Petra met on a subway in 2002 and got married in 2003 to discover that they lied to each other. Petra didn’t know that Daniel was addicted to narcotics and Daniel didn’t know that Petra was 30 years old at that time and not 27. Months after their marriage Daniel Genis was arrested for robbery. Despite being in prison, their communication never stopped. Daniel’s life in prison only made their relationship stronger and it also made them true to each other.

Relationships in prison that did not survive

Even though there are relationships that survive in prison, there are also those that have fallen apart. The most common barrier is the communication. Also, one of the reasons why relationships in prison fail is that the one who is outside is prone to infidelity because of loneliness.

How can a love, relationship, or marriage survive in jail?

There are several ways to make a relationship work despite the fact that one is being held in prison.

1. Use the telephone.

Telephone and letters are the only means of communication available for prisoners. Make use of all the possible modes of communication to talk to each other as often as possible.

2. Don’t let the love die

The one who is left outside can bring his jailbird his favorite food and magazines. He or she can also bring him the things that he or she can legally use inside the correctional to show love and concern.

3. Make plans ahead

Make plans for the future. Create something to look forward to. Make plans on the things that you can do once the loved one is released from jail.

4. Keep memories safe.

Look at the photographs of the husband or the wife while he or she is serving in prison. Daydream about the times being together.

5. Keep busy

Keep oneself busy by striving to become a better person. This applies to both parties. The prisoner may want to use the time while he is in prison to change his life for the better. The one outside may want to earn a degree, learn new things and improve physically.

6. Visit as often as possible

Telephone calls in prison are costly. Sending mails is not enough to feel one’s presence, that is why it is important to visit once in a while.

So can a love, relationship, or marriage survive jail?

There is a possibility for the love to survive jail. There are lots of love stories that succeed beyond the walls of prison, although there are also others have failed. The walls of prison may hinder a relationship or marriage, but if love is strong and true, it will overcome every hindrance along the way.

Although the prospects might seem dim at the time, there is still a way for your love to survive even if your lover or spouse ends up in prison. Naturally, you must primarily feel a deep love and affection for each other even before either one of you ends up behind bars. This way, everything else will seem more bearable.

Listed below are a few more tips that can help you cope with the challenging circumstances.

Keep communication lines open

Though it might burn a hole in your pocket at times, accept every collect call that you receive from your loved one. However, if you simply cannot afford those extra expenses while managing your household and keeping your family together as well, you can simply opt to send you messages using the more affordable snail mail.

As a bonus, sending your letters through the post office will give you the opportunity to slip in a few more physical tokens of your affection. Things such as newspaper clippings, magazines, printouts, or possibly even comic books could go a long way in letting your loved one know how much you care about them. If possible, mail one care package every week so that your lover or spouse will always have something to look forward to.

Remember the holidays

Pay special attention to the dates that are significant for both of you. Remember to send a card or simple gift on your loved one’s birthday, your anniversary, Valentine’s Day, as well as on Christmas, and on New Year’s Eve if you cannot visit the prison personally. No matter how small or simple your gift is, he will greatly appreciate the thoughtfulness that you put into looking for that perfect card or writing that touching letter.

Likewise, receiving the replies from your loved one will become even more special since you know how limited he is in terms of resources. Every card will hold an even deeper meaning than you could ever imagine.

Keep the memories alive

Keep mementos such as presents and old photos of your loved one in prominent areas around the house. Place them on your refrigerator, your bedside table, in the living room and any other areas that you frequent. This will make sure that he will always be in your thoughts.

Additionally, send him photos of you and your family as well. The photos will help him reminisce about the good times he spent with you and motivate him to look forward to his release so that he can make even more good memories with you.

Stay positive

Though there will be days when the thought of being apart from your loved one will bring you down, you should always find a way to overcome those minor hurdles. Look forward to each new day since it only brings you closer to the end of his incarceration.

If you have time to spare, try to enroll in various activities or courses to keep your mind and hands busy. Take up a new language, learn a new sport, help out at the community center, or volunteer at the hospital if you can. Enriching yourself while you are also enriching the lives of other people will help to keep your mind off the more negative aspects of being apart from your loved one.