Most people don’t know what to do when a loved one gets convicted and sentenced to prison or how to cope with life without them being locked up. So, If you’re coming to terms with the conviction and prison sentence of a sibling, parent, lover, or friend, here are 10 ways to make the journey easier:
1. Let It Sink In: Despite gearing up to fight a conviction on appeal, sometimes, you and your loved one who’s going to prison need some time to think about how your lives will be changed. Rather than pushing on, if your loved one is guilty of the crime, then it may be best to allow them to reel the moment in and correct themselves during their prison time. Accept the fact that certain things have consequences that cannot be avoided.
2. Process Your Emotions: Bottling up your grief or burying your sadness won’t make it go away. Rather, like an infection, it can eat you up and affect everyone around you. Allow yourself to feel the pain and anger, grieve at your pace and when you’re ready, let go of the pain. Be sure not to project this onto your loved one or those around you and work on finding ways to help you both deal with and heal.
3. Withhold Judgment: If you’re going to have to shoulder extra responsibilities due to your loved one being away, it may almost be impossible to not want to criticize them or project your dissatisfaction, but you should keep it in. Getting convicted may already make them anxious or fearful and sentencing, especially if it’s for many years, may already feel like a stressful burden. Criticizing them would do nothing to help them, or yourself. In the case that they were sentenced unfairly, it would only add to their and your pain.
4. Be A Solid Source Of Support: To know how to help your loved one handle going to prison, communication is important. Constant visits and words of support would go a long way. Encourage your loved one to talk about their feelings and new lifestyle. In this way, you provide comfort to them and assure yourself that they will learn to adjust and adapt while figuring out how to best maneuver inside. Show them that they’re not alone and offer to assist with whatever help they need while they’re imprisoned.
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5. Talk With Your Family And Children: Dealing with your emotions and reactions as a parent or guardian can be challenging because you have the job of influencing and raising the children. Be upfront with them and explain things to children in a way that’s respectful and honest about their father’s, mother’s, brother’s, sister’s, or other relative’s upcoming imprisonment. Answer any questions you know and work to ease their fears and concerns. The way you handle the situation would determine the type of relationship your children will have with your loved one during and/or once the prison sentence is over.
6. Get In The Know: In truth, you may just really want to know that your loved one will be okay, and you don’t want them to suffer. One way to help yourself come to grips with their conviction is to learn about the various rules, policies, processes, and lifestyle of the prison where your loved one will be. It may help put your mind at rest. Learn about the authorities, laws, and regulations, contact persons via the prison’s website, and talk with your loved ones about these things as well. Having all the necessary knowledge will help you and your loved one cope with their sentence in the long run.
7. Encourage Your Loved One To Make The Best Of Their Time: If you know that your loved one is managing and maintaining fairly the same routines each day, it may help you live and handle your life better. Talk to them about continuing hobbies, exercising, staying fit, joining the prison fellowship, continuing education as an inmate, or finding new and healthy habits. Once they can fall into a routine that’s helpful and productive, you may feel less anxious about their absence.
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8. Take Care Of Yourself: You must know how to keep your life together when your loved one is convicted. A family member’s or partner’s exit from your immediate life can be emotionally draining and especially if you relied on them for emotional, financial, or other support. Remember self-care and not to let yourself go. Seek therapy if you become depressed or anxious about your loved one’s upcoming absence from your life. Fall into healthy habits and try to keep only the good memories of them. Letting go of yourself won’t help them or you, at most they may feel responsible. Remember that life will always go on regardless, and they would want you to keep your life together.
9. Form Or Join An Outside Support Group: Whether your loved one is guilty of their crimes or not, they are human and deserve love from their loved ones. It’s important to keep the stream of support flowing and show them that they’re not forgotten. You, family, and friends can write letters, do visitation, send inmate packages, email, research local or national support groups, etc.
10. Accept Reality Yet Remain Hopeful: Statistics show that 1 out of 20 convictions in U.S. courts are often wrong. For murder cases and rape, the percentage goes higher. Maurice Hastings remains the perfect “poster boy” for innocent people who have gotten convicted in the past and later got freed. Although you must accept that your loved one is now convicted and imprisoned, it’s important to support them if they claim to be innocent and help them stay hopeful. Investigations sometimes continue even after imprisonment and old cases can get reopened. As you move forward, don’t give up on your loved one, and encourage them not to give up on themselves.
People like Lamar Johnson, Kirk Bloodsworth, Rolando and Alejandro Cruz, Robert Miller, and Roland Jones amongst many others have had their innocence proven in court after years in prison by the Innocence Project in the United States. Your loved one could be one of such.
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In conclusion, stay connected to your loved one and help them in every way possible. Fight till the end if you are sure of their innocence and help them remain hopeful and productive. With intentionality and steady work, you and your loved one can survive after a prison sentence.
Ms, T. G. L. (2022, December 23). How to Deal With a Loved One Going to Jail: 15 Steps. https://www.wikihow.com/Deal-With-a-Loved-One-Going-to-Jail?amp=1
Beneath the Statistics: The Structural and Systemic Causes of Our Wrongful Conviction Problem. (2022, March 24). Georgia Innocence Project. https://www.georgiainnocenceproject.org/general/beneath-the-statistics-the-structural-and-systemic-causes-of-our-wrongful-conviction-problem/
BBC News. (2022, October 29). Maurice Hastings: US man in prison for 38 years freed by new DNA evidence. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-63437208.amp
Maule, A. (2021, November 16). The Innocent and the Death Penalty - Innocence Project. Innocence Project. https://innocenceproject.org/the-innocent-and-the-death-penalty/