Recommendations for supporting a friend who has been incarcerated
If you have a friend in prison, you may be sympathetic to their case, or want to see them take responsibility and become a better person. Support and positivity from friends and family are important for a prisoner, and studies show that prisoners with family contact were most likely to be reformed.
In this article, we’re going to share with you the best ways to support a friend who has been incarcerated, and how you can help them stay on a positive track to rejoining civil society.
How to find a friend in prison
If you know the state where your friend is being incarcerated, you can search for a publicly available database of state inmates. For example, you can search for inmates in the Dept. of Corrections in TX using their name and search through mugshots to confirm, or any other state.
Why supporting a friend in prison is important
When someone becomes incarcerated, the transition from civilian to prison life can be shocking. With no outside contact, a prisoner will find camaraderie in other prisoners. This can be a positive thing, but it can also be negative if a prisoner falls in with the wrong groups.
When people feel socially isolated, they are more easily persuaded to be recruited into social groups that offer them an identity and validation. This is how prisoners can become radicalized and institutionalized.
When somebody is incarcerated, they may feel like the outside world no longer cares about them. They will perceive neglect because they are expecting it. It doesn’t help that arranging visitation with a prisoner is burdensome on working people with a daily schedule.
If a prisoner is recruited into radical criminal groups inside the prison, it is likely they will be coerced into committing serious offenses. Any criminal activity in prison is punished with longer sentencing. A prisoner with a 2-year sentence can end up doing 20 years after falling in with the wrong prison culture.
You can help a friend in prison avoid this path by staying in contact with them. Let them know they are still loved in the outside world, and how they are missed. Offer encouragement and support to them staying on a positive path.
Reading books in prison is also a positive past-time. If you send books to a prisoner, you can also correspond with them about the books and critical thinking. Prisoners need to keep their mind engaged in positive ways, and it surely helps to be able to have polite correspondence on something so simple as book critiquing.
What can I send to a friend in prison?
If you plan on sending any kind of packages to your friend in prison, be aware that most prisons have strict rules on what a prisoner can receive. In fact prisons consider so many things contraband, it would simply be easier telling you exactly what you can send, and anything not mentioned is simply not allowed.
When sending a package or letter, you also want to make sure the package is completely free of anything that may confuse or hinder the prison’s mail receivers, such as taping packages that need to be opened and searched.
There are also strict rules on sending books to prisoners, something many people are surprised to find out. You have to send the books newly sealed directly from a vendor like Amazon or Barnes & Nobles, you cannot send old books directly to a prisoner yourself. You can only send paperbacks as well because hard books are considered a weapon.
You can also send newspaper clippings but generally limited to 2 clippings per letter.
The best thing truly is to send letters and approved cards, small cash for the commissary, and appropriate family photographs. Simply having communication and positive messages from the outside world will help a prisoner stay on a good path, and studies show that prisoners with family contact have reduced rates of returning to prison.