The U.S. prison population was about 1.5 million in 2012, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Whether your friend is innocent or guilty, you are one of many with a loved one in prison. It can be difficult to support your friend without feeling you are condoning his illegal activity. But as a friend, it is important to show you care.
1. Call, Send Gifts and Letters
Send a letter. Let her know that you are thinking of her. Avoid bringing up her crime. Wait for her to bring it up first, suggests WriteAPrisoner.com. Fill her in on what is new in your life, so that she won’t feel left out. You may wish to include photographs. Also, if your friend puts your name on her telephone list, you may receive a call, according to the guide, The U.S. Federal Prison System, by criminologist Mary Bosworth. Hearing your voice and speaking to you directly may brighten her day. Be aware: phone calls may be recorded or monitored.
2. Visit Your Friend
Phone calls, gifts and letters can help your friend feel he is not alone, but a visit is a personal comfort. According to research published in 2004 by the University of Illinois, the majority of prisoners permitted visitors reported not getting many visits from family or friends. Taking the effort to visit your friend shows you care.
3. Comfort Through Touch
In most prisons, you are allowed to hold hands and briefly hug at the beginning and end of visits. Touching is the best form of comfort, according to the article “The Power of Touch," published in Psychology Today. Be conscious about not going overboard with physical contact. If your touch is perceived as excessive, you could be suspended from visiting. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation suggests that visitors avoid touching an inmate's face or adjusting his clothes.
4. Be Positive and Encouraging
Many prisoners become depressed, especially if they do not get visitors. When visiting, be positive and avoid negative topics. If you and your friend are spiritual or share the same religion, offer to pray or meditate with them. This can help comfort your friend and give him hope during times of despair.
- WriteAPrisoner: Tips For Visiting a Prison
- Do you Have A Loved One in Jail?; Dr. Marvin Scott
- Bureau of Justice Statistics: Prison Population Counts
- The U.S. Federal Prison System; Mary Bosworth
- California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation: Visiting Guidelines
- University of Illinois at Chicago: Family Connections During Imprisonment and Prisoners’ Community Reentry
- WriteAPrisoner: Point of Contact
- Psychology Today: The Power of Touch
- Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images