Updated: May 20
Transitioning back into society, family life, and the workforce can be a challenging process but with community support it is absolutely possible to rebuild a productive life. Here are a few simple ways to support your loved ones after incarceration.
Listen to their plans.
Understand and accept that what YOU want for their life after incarceration may not be what they envisioned for themselves. Incarcerated people have no control of their day-to-day lives, and the ability to make choices for themselves can be overwhelmingly exciting after being released. Many people spend their entire sentence planning and visualizing what they want the next chapter of their lives to look like. Be careful to not invalidate their dreams or minimize their goals by trying to emphasize what you believe is best for them. Choose motivational language and provide them with hands-on lessons that can help shape their long-term decisions. Seek professionals who can provide advisement or input that helps your loved one to remain encouraged and goal-oriented while gaining a new perspective on their plans.
Understand culture shock.
Many things that are common for you may be totally new to them. Be informative and encourage them to explore without judgment. Encourage your loved ones to tackle small unfamiliar tasks on a regular basis, and create fun moments while teaching them how to use new devices. Have relatable discussions regarding the ways language, politics, and media may have shifted since they were incarcerated. A positive learning environment can help to create a sense of comfort as your loved ones begin to explore new items, experiences, and ideas while readjusting to society and culture. It can also boost their confidence and relieve any anxiety about trying new things.
Speak life into them and encourage them to set small daily goals.
Many people experience depression after incarceration and will need help staying motivated during their transition back into society, family life, and the workforce. The incarceration experience can be damaging to a person's mental health by removing people from society and eliminating meaning and purpose from their lives. On top of that, the harsh conditions that are common in prisons and jails (overcrowding, solitary confinement, and routine exposure to violence) can have further negative effects. Positive expectations and accountability can help them to stay optimistic and determined during their reentry journey. Encourage your loved ones to seek the help that they need, and be sure to cheer them on during their healing process.