According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, family contact results in a "significantly reduced probability of committing violent crimes or property crimes while incarcerated." Giving support to an incarcerated family member through a phone call is beneficial to their mental well-being.
Having contact with the outside world will discourage an inmate from feeling "forgotten", and they'll be less likely to get involved in criminal activities in prison that could extend their sentencing. The advantages of phone calls and letters for inmates could potentially bring the system one step closer to reducing recidivism.
Why supporting a family member in prison is important
Contact with family is important for a prisoner. If rehabilitation is the goal of the prison system, than the support of loved ones will help a prisoner remain positive and optimistic. In some situations you may not know where a family member is being incarcerated.
For example, there are 21 prison facilities and dozens more county jails. You could do an offender search in the MO area using public inmate rosters if you want to reach out and see how a prisoner is doing.
The harsh truth is that prisons are already a tough environment, and many prisoners are experiencing extreme psychological and physical strains. These issues are on full display for the public to see on TV and online, and this only makes for more inmates with little hope.
Thankfully, there are things we can do as a society to minimize the harm caused by these policies. The first step is listening to the prisoners themselves and not relying on fear-based, reactionary arguments.
Alternatives to correctional facility practices like the shackling of pregnant women and the use of solitary confinement could be promoted to correctional officers, health care professionals and others who deal with the incarcerated. Alternative policies would be both more humane and much less costly.
Tips for supporting a family member in prison
When you call or visit a family member in prison, ask about special programs for inmates.
There are classes, treatment and rehabilitation programs available inside prisons, that can help the prisoner remain positive and acquire new skills they can use in the civilian world. Just the fact that they are inside receiving some type of treatment should tell you they are serious about getting help and changing their life.
Bring a friend to visitation
When you call or visit a family member in prison, ask about visitation rights. Most states have some form of visitation rights, so inquire about the rules and the facility's regulations. Generally, those visiting don't need a state ID, a court order, or a notarized letter from the inmate.
When you can visit, ask if you can bring a friend, family member or spouse. Many prisons will allow visitors to bring a family member or a friend, but they will usually have a contact number and a transportation pass to help your loved one get there.
Finally, it's very important that children have their parents with them when they're transferred to a new facility. In many cases, a family member has to wait a few weeks or even months to be reunited with their loved one, which can be difficult. That's why family visits are essential for maintaining the family.
Helping a family member after they’re released from prison
Lots of people believe that all prisoners are hardened criminals. If that were entirely true, it should indicate a failure in the system’s supposed purpose to rehabilitate. But everyone deserves a second chance.
The average prisoner released from a long prison sentence returns to a community in which few of his former friends or neighbors know who he is. And after a decade or more of harsh treatment, it is easy to fall back into familiar patterns of life. What happens next depends on what happens when they get out.
Is the person released with a sense of hope and promise? Or is he haunted by the history of crime and the threat of punishment? If they’ve been in prison for a long time, they will need help adapting to modern technology and using the internet for job searches.
You can help a family member recently released from prison, such as helping them come up with a plan to get back on their feet.