How to Support Your Loved One Just Released from Prison

How to Support Your Loved One Just Released from Prison

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Tips for this joyous and difficult transition

1. Prepare yourself for the long haul. Understand that the first few hours following your loved one’s release, though critical, are just one tiny component of the process known as “reentry.” Reentry can last a lifetime and encompasses everything from education and counseling while in prison to the lifelong hurdles of finding housing and employment after release.

2. Be there physically when your loved one is released. Meet your loved one when he exits the facility or as he steps off the bus following release so he doesn’t reenter the community alone. Do this even if the plan is for him to stay elsewhere, so he knows he has support.

3. Help your loved one come up with a plan. Realize that your loved one needs to have a plan that addresses the most fundamental hurdles of securing housing and clothing, meeting with her probation officer, and meeting her medical needs when she gets released. And if she doesn’t have a plan, she needs to make one soon.

4. Be realistic about the transition. Try to have realistic expectations about life after release for your loved one. It’s not just a question of picking up where you left off. For example, his release plan must include a “home plan,” which means an address where that individual will live after being released.

5. Understand it might not go smoothly. Be ready to face some very real and significant readjustment issues.

6. Brace yourself for some kind of conflict. Chances are there might be a conflict or two, especially in the first few weeks.

7. Be careful not to take anything for granted. Communicate with correction officials, and find out what kind of track record your loved one has had during her time away.

8. Try not to enable your loved one. Help your loved one by doing things that he cannot do versus enabling him by doing things he could and should be doing.

9. Know where to get assistance. Find out if there are prerelease centers (one-stop shops for immediate assistance) before your loved one’s release.

10. Help your loved one follow up. Make sure your loved one follows up on supportive services through local, state, and county providers for counseling, medical, and case-management services as required for her release.

Here are a few articles that discuss the realities of prison release in more detail:

“Preparing for Spouse’s Release from Prison”

“A Mother’s Day Look at Life for Moms of Incarcerated Children”

“Former Inmates Explain What You Should Do When You Get Out of Prison”

“When Helping Hurts: Are You an Enabling Parent?”

“The Prison Doors Open and You’re Released. You Have No Money or Transportation. Now What?”

Camille Quinn is an assistant professor at the Ohio State University College of Social Work. She’s the daughter of a Solo Mom and lives in Ohio.

Please feel free to contact us with any comments or questions.

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