5 Tips to Help a Family Member Reintegrate After Prison Release

Tips to Help a Family Member Reintegrate After Prison ReleaseThere are many problems prisoners face after returning home. In addition to generally adjusting to life after jail, there might be specific difficulties regarding employment, family life, and societal stigma.

According to a 2014 Harvard study, parolees that have a history of mental health issues or substance abuse face an even tougher reintegration period.

But, any parolee can experience a smoother transition back to society with support from their friends and family. In fact, one of the most crucial elements of successful reintegration for former prisoners is having loved ones to help usher them through the process.

If you have a family member that has been or will soon be released from prison, consider assisting them by following these tips on how to support your loved one after getting out of jail.

Provide Housing, If Possible

Most people that are re-entering society after prison face enormous obstacles in finding adequate housing.

According to a report by the American Psychological Association, because the risk of not finding housing is so high, some parolees experience homelessness upon their release.

Difficulty in finding housing can be caused by any number of factors – lack of income, policies that make it more difficult for parolees to obtain housing, and lack of public housing are among the most common.

The first month after someone is released from prison is the most critical for adjusting to life after jail. If you want to know how to support your loved one after getting out of jail, providing them with housing or assistance for housing should be at the top of your list.

Focus on Socialization

Studies show that one of the most common negative impacts of incarceration is social withdrawal and isolation.

For re-entry into the free world to be successful, former inmates need to experience positive social experiences, which is something you as a family member can help facilitate.

Something as simple as hosting dinner with a few family members to welcome your loved one home is a good place to start. In this case baby steps – small dinners, outings with close friends, visiting favorite restaurants, and so forth – will help many parolees in adjusting to life after jail.

Facilitate Productivity

For some ex-offenders, having too much free time can spell disaster. In fact, according to a study by the Brookings Institute, 77% of people released from prison are rearrested within five years. Having outlets for being productive in a positive way can help combat this trend.

You can’t schedule every minute of your loved one’s day, but what you can do is help them find outlets for being productive.

From things like asking your loved one to do chores around the house to more complex tasks like helping them find a job, there is no end to what you can do to promote productivity. Help them get reacquainted with a hobby they used to enjoy. Ask them to attend church services with you. Help them explore volunteer activities.

By facilitating participation in these and other activities, you can help mitigate one of the most common problems prisoners face after returning home – simply not having anything to do or look forward to.

Provide Structure, But Encourage Independence

As this report from the Department of Health and Human Services points out, inmates often live under conditions in which independence and self-initiative are quashed. Over time, some inmates may become reliant on this highly structured prison life in order to function.

Because of this, once free, ex-prisoners can find it difficult to navigate a world in which they have some measure of autonomy.

You can help ease that transition by providing structure in your loved one’s daily routine. Having meals together at the same time each day is a good place to start.

Additionally, it’s important to promote independence for your loved one. Ask their input on things like what the family should have for dinner or what fun activity you should do over the weekend, and build up from there to more complex and important decisions. By easing them back into the role of being an independent decision-maker, you can make the process of adjusting to life after jail much smoother for your loved one.

Watch for Mental Health Warning Signs

While being released from prison can be a very happy experience, reintegrating into society can be extremely stressful. What’s more, the rejection from family, friends, and society that is so common for ex-offenders can quickly foster the growth of self-doubt, anxiety, and depression, to name but a few of the mental health problems prisoners face after returning home.

There are a couple of simple things you can do to try to break this cycle.

First, help your loved one improve their self-talk. For example, if they’re facing rejection from job interview after job interview, encourage them to reframe the situation from “I’m a failure. I can’t get a job.” to “I haven’t found a job yet, but I’m strong enough to keep trying.” This kind of positive self-talk can do wonders for one’s outlook on life.

Second, help your loved one set attainable goals. At first, this might be something like organizing their living space. As time goes on, it might be to learn a new skill. The point is that having goals not only gives your loved one something to look forward to, but it also gives them a reason to celebrate and an opportunity to feel success when those goals are accomplished.

Sean Jackson April 2020

Master of Science in Counseling | University of Wyoming

Bachelor of Science in Information Technology | University of Massachusetts

Bachelor of Arts in Social Studies Education | University of Wyoming

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