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5 Ways to Reach Out To Someone Who Has Been Incarcerated

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When a loved one is incarcerated, it can send shockwaves across the family. Whether they’re your friend, family member, spouse, or child, there’s a general uneasiness about the whole situation. Try to consider their feelings, as your loved one needs you now more than ever.

Working Through the Feelings 

You have every right to feel angry, confused, frustrated, or upset that someone you know is incarcerated. Perhaps they left you or someone you know in a dire situation, or maybe they did something you’re ashamed of. Know you have the right to question their decision-making.

However, if you’re in the position to show up for your friend or family member, know that it’s a difficult step to make. There’s no manual for how to support anyone in their moment of need.

When you feel stuck, take it one step at a time. For example, you can start by trying to find your incarcerated loved one by using Prison Roster’s nationwide inmate search. You’ll need information, like their ID and prison address, in order to send them mail, gifts, and money. 

How to Support an Incarcerated Friend or Family Member

Reaching out is tough, but you can do it in ways that make you and the other person comfortable.

Here are five ways to reach out to your incarcerated friend or family member.

1. Send Them a Letter

If you aren’t on your loved ones’ contact list or you can’t afford to take a collect call, sending a letter is the best way to reach out to them. Include your phone number, pictures of their family or friends, drawings you or their children drew, crossword puzzles, or anything else they’d like.

Before sending your letter, make sure it isn’t violating any rules. Your letter may be rejected and sent back, which delays your ability to connect with your loved one by several weeks.

2. Send Them Money

Without money, your incarcerated loved one won’t have access to envelopes, stamps, or phone cards, which are necessary for communication.

Money is also helpful for necessities and upscaled alternatives, like healthy food, toothpaste, toiletries, clothing, among other things.

3. Speak on the Phone

Once you’re on your loved one’s contact list, they can call you. Keep in mind that if you miss their call, you can’t call them back, so try to set up a time where you’re both available. If your call goes to voicemail, they also have to pay for the collect charges out of their own pocket. 

Speaking on the phone may be awkward at first, but they’ll love to hear from you. Talk to them about your life and don’t feel bad about it; they want to know what’s going on with you.

4. Send Them Gifts

You can send them gifts, like art supplies, chapter books, or puzzle books, to your loved one. However, you need to send your gifts from a third-party source, like Amazon.

Prisons typically reject gifts from home addresses, so don’t send personal items unless they fit in an envelope. 

5. Visit Them at the Prison

We all need face-to-face interaction, but your loved one may not get it as often as they’d like. If you go inside the detention center, know that it’s going to be uncomfortable, but your loved one will greatly appreciate your effort. They’ll be excited to see you and interact with you.

Before visiting a prison, make sure you’re not wearing any loose clothing, jewelry, or anything that could be mistaken for a weapon. You’ll have to remove your electronics at the door.


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