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Behind Bars: A little support can go a long way

By Brian Wood - | Apr 18, 2016

It’s interesting to see the varied levels of support prisoners receive. I have observed general patterns in family and friends support depending on what walk of life an offender comes from or which crimes they committed.

Levels of outside support vary, but the extremes of the spectrum are most common. There are those who are almost completely, or completely abandoned, by their loved ones, and those whose families and/or friends are there for them through it all. Many of those people whose families stick with them have families that are not unfamiliar to this lifestyle, and while they may not outwardly condone it, they accept it. I’ve seen this behavior work for and against inmates. I can see in some cases how support can be enabling, or conversely how it means everything and is the life support for the inmate.

I shared my opinion with another inmate and he said to me, “Families that are familiar with the “struggle” (poverty/crime) are closer knit, and that’s why they show the love they do.”

He has seen both sides of the situation with his family and his wife’s.

Tough love might be one way to describe those families who severely limit or completely discontinue their contact with their loved ones. I think it’s probably more than that. This often happens when prison is such a foreign concept to them; I believe they find it easier to turn their backs. There’s also those prisoners with a particularly heinous crime, or often their chosen life of crime that has caused everyone they knew to give up on them.

I definitely see more repeat drug offenders with nobody out there, than prisoners doing life for some serious stuff. Out of the categories of crimes prisoners are in here for, it seems sex-offenders receive a lot from the outside world i.e. phone calls, letters, visits and money. It’s a running joke, with guys who find themselves without financial support, and I’m guessing jealous of others, to say, “I guess I should have caught a sex beef when I was out there, so I could get a 60 sack every week.” That’s the name given for a full order of commissary, because $65 is the max amount of money prisoners can spend in a given week.

I’ve also observed and mentioned before those with support usually lead a healthier life in here and seem better equipped to deal with a release back into society, whether that comes or not. I think those with no support have only the influences in here, and more often not the negative ones win out. I am so grateful for the support I receive, because I don’t think I would have handled my present situation nearly as well without it.

I would encourage anyone who knows someone incarcerated, however obscure the relationship might be, to send them a letter to let them know you think about them. It can be a difference maker. I witnessed an inmate drastically change his attitude and plans for the future in a positive way solely because his grandparents told him they wanted to be there for him.


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