When someone you love is sent to jail or prison, your instinct is to visit them at every visiting opportunity. The reality in many cases is that it can’t be done. Inmates get moved from prison to prison sometimes. You have children, a job, and social obligations. How do you balance supporting your loved one with visits, while still keeping things together outside?
Visit when you can. Whether you can visit once a month or once a year, take the time to do it. Your inmate wants to see you as often as possible, so when it is possible, be sure to follow through.
Keep your word. You have a lot going on outside the walls but your inmate’s life revolves around visits, calls, chow and mail. When you say you are going to visit and then you don’t go, it throws your inmate into a tailspin. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. He or she would rather know you are coming once or twice a year than to be disappointed every month. Figure out how often you can visit and share that information with your inmate so you are both on the same page.
Phone Calls. When regular visits are not possible, other forms of communication become more important. Find out what it costs for your inmate to call you from prison or jail and set a budget. Whether it is once a day, once a week, or once a month, let your inmate know how often you can take the calls. Pick an appointed time where you will make sure you are free of distractions and can focus on the conversation.
Lots of Mail. It doesn’t cost a lot to flood an inmate with mail. Because you cannot visit very often, writing often will let your inmate know you and know that he or she is on your mind. Make it a policy to mail at least three letters a week. Some people devote 30 minutes a night to writing just before going to bed then mailing it in the morning on the way to work. Write about things you would talk about at visits. Even simple observations about what’s out your window, what you saw and smelled on a walk, what your kids are learning – the joyful moments of everyday life – will be of interest to someone who is locked up.