Having a loved one in jail is tough on the inmate and all friends and family involved. However, supporting an inmate in jail can mean as little as accepting their phone call. If you're unsure how to support someone in jail, keep reading to find out how your small gestures can help significantly.
1. Stay in Communication
The first and most effective way to offer support to an inmate in jail is by keeping in contact with them. There are a few ways to do this, so whichever ones you're most comfortable with will be best.
By answering your loved one's calls, you show them that you are willing to work around their schedule to talk with them. The importance of connecting with them outweighs the importance of whatever else is currently going on in your daily schedule.
Jail inmates also have to pay money to make phone calls. Oftentimes if you accept the incoming call, this does not mean you are accepting to pay charges yourself. Being mindful that they are paying a probably fairly expensive rate to talk for a few minutes helps encourage you to take that phone call.
Even if you're unsure of what to say, just being on the other line is helpful. You do not have to have a prophetic dialogue to be appreciated by your loved one in jail.
Another way to keep in touch is through the mail. You can send your loved one written letters to keep in communication. Even if you regularly speak on the phone, letters can help you write out your feelings, updates on current events, or anything else you feel important that may have been left out of your conversations.
Writing a letter is also a great form of communication as it can give them something to look forward to and alleviate some of the pressure possibly associated with a phone call.
Visiting your loved one in prison is another way to stay in touch to provide meaning for them. This gives them a sense of normalcy while in a difficult situation. Visit them to reestablish your connection together.
2. Support an Inmate in Jail Financially
Offering financial assistance to an inmate in jail can reduce some of the stress that comes from being incarcerated. An arrest usually costs someone their job, and you have to pay to be in jail. This means they most likely won't have a reliable source of income which can be detrimental to their quality of life after leaving jail.
The only thing provided for them in jail includes food, shelter, and sometimes medical assistance. In many jails, you need money for snacks, toiletries, stamps, and to make phone calls.
One way to offer financial support, even if it's not a lot, is by offering to pay for the phone calls or stamps used to communicate with each other. Inmates have an account that can receive deposits from friends and family. Less than one hundred dollars goes a long way in helping them keep in contact with people and to be able to purchase items that allow them more comfort while in jail.
Get in contact with your loved ones so that you can gain access to their financial account. You may need their booking number, account number, and account balance to successfully deliver funds to their account.
In addition, you can also help them prepare for reentry by seeking out job opportunities for them. Reaching out to businesses that support formerly incarcerated people can help ease the transition for them into the real world again.
Inmates have to pay for an attorney as well unless they cannot afford one. No matter what, they will probably face legal fees of some sort. Offering to help with these fees can be relieving.
3. Send Books and Stay Positive
The last things you can do for an inmate in jail is sending them mail, such as books, and stay positive. Some prisons may restrict certain books and mail, so make sure that before you send anything, it has been approved. You can discuss with the inmate what type of book they want, so they have something to keep them company.
Certain jails may have a church and small library to go to. Donating items to the library, like books, puzzles, and sudoku, is an indirect way of offering support. Many jails are limited in their funding and rely on nonprofit organizations that offer financial or itemized donations.
Get involved by seeking out charities local to your town that directly impact the jail your inmate is staying in. If you have trouble sending mail for whatever reason, this is the next best way to give more resources for your loved one to have access to.
Overall, staying positive, level-headed, and calm will help your loved one more than anything. While it is tricky to navigate this kind of situation, your support and love help them stay on track and keep things in perspective.
Jail can be a lonely, intimidating, and isolating place. Offering someone in incarceration a listening ear and helping hand may eliminate some of that suffering.
There are additional resources you can use to get information on an inmate in jail that you know.
Jail Exchange offers the resources to look up any inmate or facility in the United States and access those public records. You can help support a loved one in jail by staying up to date on their case and making sure they are being treated properly in jail. To search your inmate's case, use this Jail Exchange link here.