Your incarcerated loved one is getting out of prison. This is what you've been waiting for. This is why you've run for second chances, signed petitions, and shared your family's story.
So how do you prepare for your loved one's reentry? How do you readjust and support your loved one as they try to integrate back into society?
It can be a long, uphill battle, but preparing your family and yourself for the return of an incarcerated loved one can be beneficial to their reentry and your family’s own adjustment.
1. UNDERSTAND THEIR PROBATION AND PAROLE
Prison release is conditional, and in order for your loved one to succeed, they will need to meet those conditions. These conditions will not just affect your loved one's life, but yours as well.
One of the best ways to help your loved one comply with their restrictions is to develop a relationship with their probation officer. This will allow both you and your loved one to be aware of all conditions of release, minimizing the chance of a parole violation as a result of miscommunication.
2. SAVE MONEY
When your loved one comes home, they will need some time to get back on their feet. It will take time to readjust to the culture outside prison, relearn how to schedule their time, and find a job. During this process, they will most likely need financial support for their food, clothes, and housing.
If you are able to support your loved one, make it clear that your financial support is short term and conditional on their efforts to find a job and become financially independent.
3. PLAN FOR YOUR RELATIONSHIP
Prior to your loved one's release, the two of you should have an in-person conversation about what your relationship will look like after parole.
What are your physical boundaries? What are your emotional ones? What is the best way to address your children's potential reactions to your loved one’s return? What is the plan for your loved one's job search?
Building family relationships and developing ties to the community are key in making sure that a returning citizen does not put themselves in a situation that may lead back to prison. If you and your loved one are focused on looking ahead and planning for the various emotional stages of their reentry, you will both be better prepared to face the challenges.
4. LOOK AHEAD TO FUTURE NEEDS
As you discuss your loved one's needs post-incarceration, keep an eye out for the various resources and nonprofits that can meet those needs.
There are various nonprofits and other organizations that provide resources for financial support, food, and shelter. In addition, you can also find resources for clothing, transportation, and health care. Be sure to consider family therapy and individual mental health support options as well.
Employment assistance, education, and training services will also help when your loved one begins to look for a job.
5. FIND POTENTIAL SUPPORT GROUPS AND CHURCHES
Church and support groups with other like-minded individuals will provide a source of friendship, stability, trust, and advice for when the times get tough. Having a larger network of friends will help each person in your family get through the tough times together.
6. GET READY FOR YOUR LOVED ONE'S JOB SEARCH
Your loved one's job search may be one of the most challenging parts of reentry. Many companies are wary about hiring individuals with a criminal record, which will make your loved one's job search more challenging.
Consider researching groups that assist former prisoners with their job search. Look for companies that have "banned the box" and stated that they are proponents of second chances and are willing to hire individuals with a criminal history.
7. TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN
Before your loved one returns home, you will need to prepare your children. Your kids will need time to adjust to the sudden change in family dynamic and home life. They may be angry at their parent for seemingly abandoning them, or they may feel like their space is invaded when your loved one is initially released and moves back home. These potential feelings need to be discussed before they happen.
Consider talking with your children about how they feel about their father or mother coming back from prison. Talk to them about how life is about forgiveness. Focus on teaching them that when someone does something wrong, they must face the consequences, forgive themselves, and change for the better.
8. CONSIDER RELATIONSHIP COUNSELING
If it is your husband or wife being released from prison, your relationship is about to experience a sudden change, much like the change you felt when he or she was initially incarcerated. There will be excitement and joy, but there are also certain aspects of your relationship that need to be discussed. Relationship counseling will help you and your loved one identify what needs to be resolved and how to work through them in the easiest way possible.
Talk with your husband or wife about finding a local relationship counselor and prepare a few topics or questions you would like to explore with your counselor and loved one.