It's easy to feel alone and scared when your loved one is incarcerated, but you're far from it. In fact, almost half of Americans have a close family member in prisons across the US.
Providing support for someone in jail is a priority for most of these individuals, and it likely is important to you as well. Read on to learn some ways that you can support an inmate being held in a prison facility.
1. Know Their Facility's Restrictions
Different prisons have different protocols regarding the things that you can send to prisoners. Some high-security facilities may only accept letters. Others may accept parcels of new books and other gifts from online retailers.
You can learn your limitations by researching the jail where your loved one is being held. Use Jail Exchange's tool to click the state of incarceration, search and click the facility name, and read the available information on the jail.
At this point, you can look up the prison if you have any other questions about it. Former inmates may have provided information. Your state's department of corrections also may have posted facts.
2. Answer Your Loved One's Calls
Incarcerated individuals spend a lot of their prison time missing loved ones in the outside world. They're unable to accept calls from people for most of the day. When they are allowed to place them, they're given a very limited amount of time to have a conversation.
Additionally, prisoners making phone calls often must pay to place the calls. If the phone line informs you that there are no reverse charges, this is why. Your loved one wants to talk to you, and picking up is one of the best things that you can do to help them feel less alone.
3. Visit When Possible
Visiting days are even sparser than phone hours, and they're an even more highly controlled process. Luckily, this makes them completely safe for you as a visitor. Guards will be all around to protect you.
When supporting inmates, visiting is one of the best things that you can do. It's not just a reminder that you love and care about them. It also gives them a link to the outside world, some hope, and something to look forward to.
Remember that daily life in prison is pretty repetitive and mundane. A visit from a loved one on the outside can provide a lot of much-needed respite.
4. Send Letters
Letters provide prisoners with tangible evidence that they are loved and you are thinking of them. They also are allowed to keep your words with them even when you aren't able to talk on the phone or in person. Luckily, there's no limit to the number of letters that prisoners can send and receive.
Make sure that you include your loved one's 8-digit prison registration number as well as their name. The address should consist of the PO box number, state, city, and zip code. You also may want to include the name of the prison with the housing unit and bunk assignments for smoother mail delivery.
Letters can contain most information such as questions about their daily life and stories from life back at home. Just note that guards will likely screen both ingoing and outgoing letters for safety.
5. Consider Mailing Gifts
Most US prisons allow inmates to receive certain types of gifts. The most common allowances are books, magazines, catalogs, and other print materials. Look into the specifics of your loved one's prison for more information on what you can and can't send to them.
There are always restrictions on what gifts you can send. For example, some prisons won't allow certain types of headphones or sharp silverware because of safety concerns.
Generally, your printed materials will need to come new from a reputable vendor. They cannot be used materials that you send yourself. Amazon and Barnes and Noble are generally accepted vendors, though your gift will usually be inspected before it is given to your beloved inmate.
Some prisons also allow you to send care packages through reputable vendors. These packages may include small radios, sealed bags of food, headphones, and comfortable clothing.
6. Give Them Money
You may not know this, but the Federal Bureau of Prisons as well as state and county correctional facilities will usually let you send money to inmates. In fact, it's extremely easy and convenient to do so! You can just go to your local grocery store such as Kroger and make a payment directly to the inmate's account.
You will need to enter:
- Their commissary or calling account
- Their first and last name
- Their correctional facility name
- The facility code
- Their correctional ID
- Your sender name
- The amount you want to send
The inmate can then use these funds to buy nonperishable food items, beverages, hygiene supplies, clothes, stationery and mailing supplies, small radios, MP3 players, sunglasses, OTC medications, and more.
7. Don't Forget About Parole Eligibility
Most inmates will be eligible for parole at a certain point in their sentence. Remind your loved one of this to provide them with some hope and comfort. Then, make sure that you do everything in your power to ensure that they are granted parole.
Hiring a high-quality parole attorney is one of the best actionable methods of helping prisoners. Do your research and find an experienced and reputable lawyer to assist with this process. Remember that the goal of an inmate is to regain their freedom and make that goal your own.
Show Your Support to Someone in Jail
While it can be challenging to support someone in jail, it's possible when you know what you're doing. Now that you have some tips on how to help, it's time to begin making life better for your incarcerated loved one.
We're committed to providing you with access to inmate records and prison documents so that you can learn about the facility where your inmate is being held. That's why we're happy to answer any questions about specific prison facilities across the US. Contact us with these inquiries before deciding how to begin supporting prisoners that you love.