Transitioning from prison back into regular life can be a significant adjustment. Whereas inmates are expected to stick to a strict schedule, life at home will be more relaxing. While that may seem like a good thing, the culture shock can be challenging to process in the coming weeks. You can help adjust your loved ones to their new surroundings by following these tips.
Stay in Touch While They’re In Prison
While your friend or family member is still in prison, it’s essential to stay in contact with them to help the transition from the correctional facility less severe. Life on the inside can be stressful and difficult, so your loved ones will need support during this difficult time. You can set up regular phone dates, become pen pals, or send over photos and gifts for entertainment.
Example: Terre Haute Federal Corrections Center in Indiana
At Terre Haute Federal Correctional center, you can send letters to an inmate but be sure to send it over with the correct address. The institution is separated into three areas: USP Terre Haute, FCI Terre Haute, and the camp. If the address is incorrect, it may be thrown out. Loved ones can send money to an inmate’s wallet and schedule phone calls or in-person visits.
5 Tips on How to Help Your Friends and Family Adjust
Be Empathetic to Their Situation
Empathizing with your loved ones once they’re released isn’t easy, and it’s okay to be angry or upset due to what sent them to prison. However, your loved one really needs a non-judgmental shoulder to cry on and a warm hug, even if they look uncomfortable accepting one. Aggression and anger are seen as valuable tools to protect yourself in prison, but it’s a hindrance on the outside. If they come off as upset, understand that it was a product of their environment.
Keep Them Busy with Hobbies or by Getting Them Involved
Your loved one may have developed a drug addiction within prison or already had one previously. Additions are challenging to work through without a support group. Thankfully, some organizations help former inmates adjust through volunteer work or passions. Through these groups, your loved one can establish healthy habits and build bonds with their community.
Communicate With Them About Their Emotional State
You don’t have to do this right away, but it’s important to discuss how they may be feeling when they’ve settled in. Living in a constantly stressful environment can make even the most resilient depressed, anxious, or more violent. Knowing where they stand emotionally will make it easier for you to adjust around their triggers or to ask them to seek psychiatric aid. Keep in mind that time spent in prison doesn’t make it okay for any kind of abuse to occur.
Make Sure They’re Staying Healthy
Depression and social isolation are common among former inmates. Before your loved one meets with a healthcare professional (if necessary), try and help them take care of themselves.
- Ensure they’re getting enough sleep by creating a comfortable living space.
- Cook meals for them in the beginning and ask them to join you when grocery shopping.
- Encourage them to drink 8 glasses of water a day. Keep a water bottle near them.
- Keep tabs on their hygiene. Are they brushing their teeth and taking regular showers?
- Suggest that they pick up a self-care practice, like yoga or a beauty routine.
It’s common for former prisons to keep themselves emotionally unavailable, so you may need to watch them the first few weeks to see where they’re struggling.
Set Goals and Expectations
One of the few positives about prison is that it establishes a routine that all inmates must follow. Without that kind of structure, newly released prisons will become overwhelmed with choices and cause them to make none at all. Set small, realistic goals that they’re capable of achieving daily, like showing or getting dressed, and move on to updating their resume or building a skillset. Don’t expect them to bounce back into the workforce or a stable home life immediately.