Supporting those affected by incarceration

You’ve recently learned that a friend or family member has a loved one behind bars. How can you support them when it matters the most? Following are practical tips to ensure your interactions are productive.

1. Listen without judgment. You may be tempted to offer advice or your own opinion of the situation. But truthfully, even if you’re an expert, this is not the time for a lecture. Listen more than talk and allow them to be vulnerable and raw.

2. Show up. Instead of saying, ‘”Let me know if I can do anything for you,” just show up. Bring the family a meal. Treat your friend to coffee. Mow their lawn. As the saying goes, actions speak louder than words.

3. Offer spiritual support. If your friend or family member is religious, he or she might appreciate your prayers. You might even invite them to your place of worship, if it’s appropriate.

4. Encourage them. Physical, mental, and spiritual health are important during this time of trial. Encourage your friend or family member to eat nutritious food and get enough exercise and rest. They should also maintain a support system, staying in touch with positive, caring friends. You might also recommend they request a copy of my eBook, which has resources and encouragement for parents facing the incarceration of a child. No one should have to be on this journey alone.

5. Support justice reform. Crime isn’t just the breaking of laws. Crime harms the people we love and undermines our sense of safety. Crime demands a response, but the current approach to crime and incarceration is broken. That’s because the current paradigm often neglects the needs of victims, exacts revenge instead of accountability, and fails to make our communities safer. In other words, we can do better. It’s time to invest resources in a new approach that works. Restorative justice advocates call for a model that validates those victimized by crime, transforms those responsible for crime, and encourages communities to play a role in creating a safe and just society. Write your legislator and encourage them to vote for policies that reflect this shift.

[Monalisa Johnson is a licensed and ordained minister of the gospel and a certified life coach as well as a mother and entrepreneur. In no way is anything that she writes, speaks or shares considered medical advice or clinical therapy. Consider all that you receive to be life coaching and guidance.]

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