Family and Prison

Posted: April 20, 2013 in Life after Prison
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Everyone in prison has someone on the outside waiting for them to get out.  For some they are children, wives, or girlfriends.  For others, it is their parents or other family members.

Life on the “inside” is often determined by interactions between these people and the inmates.  Believe it or not inmates get very upset when they don’t hear from their children, don’t get an email on a regular basis, or don’t hear from anyone.  An inmate’s life is all dependent on the sense of hope that those on the outside will love and remember them despite the issue of them being in prison.

I know that there is no way I would’ve been able to mentally survive my short time without the daily emails or phone calls to my parents and fiancée, although those aren’t the only way friends and family can give emotional support for an inmate.

Visits are the best.  You could not walk through the dorms on a Friday evening without hearing everyone asking if another inmate was getting a visit the following day.  This was while they were all getting their uniforms ironed, haircuts done, and getting that last-minute shave in.  At first it was kind of funny to watch until it was your turn to get a visit.  Then you were the one that was trying to get a hold of the iron and ironing board, racing to get in the shower, trying to make an appointment at the barber, and waiting patiently for the CO’s to call your name to go to the visitation room.

Letters can sometimes be just as great!  Letters, cards, and books can make an inmate’s face light up.  When it is time for Mail-Call all the inmates gather around the CO to see if they go any mail.  When you get that letter, card, or book, the inmates scatter to various parts of the dorm to escape to home for a moment.  The nice thing about letters is they can always be revisited.  Very rarely did you see a letter get thrown away, torn up, or tossed aside (yes, inmates can be pack-rats).

Although, some of these can backfire and break down an inmate as well.  I heard some inmates who got letters about children being sick or something was wrong with the house.  These can also tear an inmate apart simply because they can’t be there to help, nor can they get in touch with their loved one when they want to.  At that point the inmate just has to wait for the next letter or phone call to get an update.  I know of one inmate whose wife had a baby while he was in prison.  Unfortunately he was unable to get in touch with his wife at the time of the birth.  Nor was he allowed to call the hospital simply because that number was not on his approved phone list.  The CO’s will not be sympathetic to these kind of “emergencies”.  The typical response from them is that if there is an emergency the Unit Manager will let them know, and then you will be allowed a 5-minute phone call.

All and all for almost ever inmate, survival is based on their interaction with their family.  The constant phone calls, emails, letters, and visits can never replace the freedom one has when they get out, but it does give the inmate a goal to work for.

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