9 Ways To Help Your Loved One Be Successful in Re-entry (Psst! PASS IT ON!)
BY KIMBERLY CARROLL, MA, LPC, LADC
1. Write letters! While it may seem redundant, while your love one is still incarcerated, this means the world! Keeping in contact with the outside world is very beneficial for many reasons: 1) Your loved one will not feel like such a stranger if they are kept up on what all is going on with other family members and notable events. Keeping up-to-date may actually help to reduce their anxiety upon release. 2) Continuing to show support also demonstrates that people on the outs care and they have still have somewhere to go. 3) This will increase feelings of hope which correlate with one's ability to feel that they can be successful. You can do this by finding your loved one’s correctional facility address online or by signing up with JPay online.
2. Help plan their reentry day. Be supportive and let them know if you or someone will be able to pick them up, and that first day might look like. It demonstrates that they will have a reliable schedule for the first day, something that can cause a lot of anxiety from behind the tall walls of prison or jail. If you will not be able to pick them up or they may not have a ride because they're too far away, see if you can go on to greyhound or whatever affordable transportation will be local and see if you can find them a ride ahead of time so that their trip home will be planned. You may even find local resources who may be willing to help with this. Often times the first 24 hours is very telling of a person’s success in reentry. If they have no ride or nowhere to go, they will go back to whatever resources that they knew before incarceration.
3. Ask. What will they need? Through letter or phone conversations, ask them what they may need upon entry things. Things you might ask about may be: hygiene products, clothing, shoes or appointments. Help them to know that these things will be ready may help them to reduce the anxiety associated with being in public a lot on their first day outside of jail or prison.
4. But probation first! Most probation officers want to see some accountability starting from day one, so if they will still be on probation or parole, make this the first priority (of course after a nice meal!) Missing the first probation or parole visit may be crucial to one’s success in reentry. It is easy to procrastinate, and by doing this you're one step ahead of the game.
5. Offer help. Understand that they may not want to ask too much of people, and feel too reliant or needy. They will need help with rides, housing, money and general day to day stuff. They may not want to be a burden to you or their loved ones, but be willing to help out and offer rather than wait for them to ask. Maybe you can plan to be the ride to a certain destination such as treatment each week, if you are able.
6. Housing search. If your loved one will be able to move in with you or into their old home upon reentry, that is great! However, if you're in a different town or they have probation in another county, this may not be as likely. Stopping by the county offices, calling probation or checking in with local resources may be beneficial in helping your loved one find housing before they are released. Property management entities may have private renters who may be more likely to rent to individuals with criminal histories, especially if they have good references and are also in treatment and doing what they should be. If someone has no place to go, reentry can be very daunting and one can easily fall back into bad habits.
7. Stop telling everyone! Do not put word out on your Facebook or around town that your loved one is getting out! If their old friends hear that your loved one is getting out, they may make a plan for unwanted visits. The last thing they may if they are wanting to make changes, is an old friend knocking on their door the day after they get back home.
8. Get rid of it! If you loved one was incarcerated due to drug charges, make sure that if they're moving back into their old home, will get back their old care, or some of their old personal items back, that these items or home does not contain paraphernalia. Often times when in one’s addiction, people hide or leave paraphernalia, drugs and related items where they may later find them. Although this may not have been planned, this can often hinder one's ability to succeed when they stumble upon these in the future. So throw away and flush all that stuff.
9. Take care of you. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase: “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” Before you are overwhelmed, find a way to give yourself some self-care and do not become overwhelmed yourself. What are ways you will do this? Maybe have some reading time, take some baths, go on walks and be around supportive people. Ask others to help if you can and delegate.