How to Survive Prison : Family

Prison Recover : Keeping family from breaking apartHow to survive in prison and having a family member in prison really sucks. It will cause heartache, disruption, and disagreement among family members; regardless of whether it’s a one-time aberration or something that has happened several times.

Before going through this series you can make out how to handle your finances for your loved one.This blog series will explore how to survive prison and what to do when a family member, a parent, spouse, sibling, child, or other loved one goes to prison. Over several entries, we’ll talk about guilt & innocence, ‘survivor’ guilt, if / when to cut someone out, setting mutual expectations, parenting, and more. In addition, there will be at least one entry intended for older children and teens as well.

Guilt, Innocence, prison, and family

This blog is not intended for those people who are truly innocent of the crime for which they are facing prison. By ‘truly innocent’ I mean that they were not associated with the crime, the criminals, or anything related to either in any way whatsoever! I am talking about cases of true mistaken identity or being framed for a crime. This blog is not intended for those situations, though much of the advice may still be relevant.

What is guilt? How do we come to terms with people we love who’ve done bad….

This is not a legal, but a practical discussion of guilt. Sometimes guilt is easy to define – they pulled the trigger, raped the woman, hit the old man, abused the child, took the money, etc. If there is clear evidence or a clear confession then at least you know where your journey begins, even though it hurts badly.

Sometimes though the situation feels less clear – they were in the car, but didn’t pull the trigger – they were in the house, but didn’t rape the woman – they let their abuser abuse their child – they knew what their friends were doing, but didn’t act to stop them – they were responding to a crime committed first against them – they were in the room for a drug deal, but they were just along for the ride – etc.

These unclear situations tempt many of us to rationalize, deny guilt, and get angry – not at the loved one in trouble, but at the system. While our system is imperfect, and injustices abound, reactions like this often make the situation worse and make a healthy recovery much more difficult. What comes next may be hard to read, it might make you angry.

If your loved one put themselves in that situation, around those people, and in that place, they are essentially guilty. Even if they have an addiction, and addiction is an illness that needs treatment, they are still responsible for their choices. No addiction or circumstance excuses criminal behavior. I do wish our system approached each circumstance individually and used prison a lot less, but those things don’t absolve someone of their guilt.

Recognizing a person’s responsibility for their actions, doesn’t mean you don’t love them. On the contrary, seeing clearly the consequences of their choices, helping them do the same, and sticking by them with love is about the best thing you could possibly do for them in the long run! It is not easy, and may not feel great in the moment, but it is the beginning of a healthy recovery. In the articles following this one, we’ll talk about healthy boundaries, setting expectations, communicating, and parenting with a family member in prison.

Survive Prison by If & When to cut someone out of your life, and if others disagree

If they abuse you – physically, sexually, or emotionally; if they terrorize you, threaten you, and try to control your life; if they cut you off from the people and things you love; if they threaten others to control you, get professional counseling and seriously consider never speaking to them again. Many people think that advice is so obvious it doesn’t bear writing, but the idea of love gets badly twisted for many of us, and that can make it hard to leave a relationship even when the other person is in prison.

Most of the time the situation just isn’t that clear and easy. Even if the person does act that way towards you, others may not see it and may even tell you you’re not being fair to them. It doesn’t matter, you’re not accountable to anyone for your behavior – except God and maybe your kids.

Cutting someone out of your life may be an easy call if they’ve done things like those I listed above. It is something you are free to do even if they weren’t outright abusive. Long patterns of irresponsibility, taking advantage, cheating, etc., can also be good reasons for an individual to not want someone in their lives.

If you have children with someone whom you decide not to have a relationship with, you still have an obligation to be willing to discuss the situation openly with them. They may feel differently than you, or need to see for themselves, even if they love you and believe every word you say.

Children will ache for even the worst parent. They will think they are at fault for the missing parent’s behavior and absence. They will fill in the gaps in wildly unpredictable ways that will ultimately do more harm than any truth. There may even come a time when you have to facilitate communication with someone you hoped never to hear from again for the sake of your child. If you absolutely can’t, try to find someone who knows the whole situation and may be willing to help.

When it comes to the rest of your family, try to give each other space to react differently and support each other’s choices. Some people need time and space from the situation, others feel a need to help people that some consider lost. What

If you have any doubt about what to do, seek help – from trusted family, your church, professional counselors, or a friend who is grounded and able to help you see the issue clearly.

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