“Emotional roller coaster,” best describes the feelings and conversation to be had with a family member or close contact who has been incarcerated for a crime. Preserving your relationship is a challenge and perplexing at best. Whether rightfully or wrongfully convicted, individuals are forced to re-establish themselves within a society that is distressingly different from the life they previously lived. As well, underlying feelings of embarrassment, guilt, anger or remorse are imminent and must dissipate over time. Typically, these same feelings reverberate throughout an inmate’s circle of family and friends, so incarceration is likely to become a shared condition.

How can you help someone who is facing as such, a life-altering experience?

The best practice therapy is to encourage “Self-Respect” and Hope.” Incarceration creates feelings of despair and limits one’s life prospectus. An endless conversation about inmate living conditions, case events, and ensuing injustice gives way to hopelessness. Developing sensitivity to an inmate’s character change can be challenging while you reestablish a practical relationship. Incarcerated and deprived of their future, an inmate requires a great deal of encouragement in order to feel like a member of humanity. Evolving self-respect allows an inmate to have hope and reestablish themself as a stable individual.

Essentially, it’s like rebuilding a person after everything they have ever known or loved has been taken away from them. A beginning is knowing that people still care about them regardless of their circumstances while affirming that they haven’t been ostracized from family and friends. Reinforcing their beliefs, thoughts, and observations about life, in general, will give them position and the ability to voice an opinion again.

Prison social networks offer little in the way of emotional support, so contact with family and friends is an inmate’s only resource for help while rebuilding themself. Having an incarcerated family member is a responsibility and requires commitment. Listening and sharing feelings from the dark side can be somewhat unpleasant however, as an inmate restores their self-respect, they begin to have hope and can re-enter humanity again.