It has been well-established that the effects of incarceration aren’t limited to the person who finds him or herself facing hard time. Parents and friends, not to mention spouses and children, are immensely affected by their loved ones being given a prison sentence, and often in ways you wouldn’t necessarily expect.
We’ve covered in the past the effects of parental incarceration on children. In short, children of all ages, but particularly those in the developmental stages, suffer both mental and emotional consequences from having a parent behind bars. Their grades begin to plummet as their attendance and ability to focus in school-settings drops dramatically. They find themselves ostracized at school and embarrassed by their home life.
This can cause a vicious cycle at home in what can only be described as a cruel circle of negative impacts on everyone involved. As the children struggle to adapt to their parent or guardian’s incarceration, the spouse of the incarcerated has the responsibility of taking on the full burden of raising and caring for the child. Depending on the child’s age, this can be an incredibly difficult task, and a drastic change in responsibility depending on income and employment status.
Coping with a loved one’s sudden incarceration can be mentally taxing. While the prison and legal system does its work without the courts, the family is often left out to dry both mentally and fiscally.
Acceptance is a large part of the process. Understanding that the mistakes made by your loved one do not reflect on you, your children, your friends or your life. However, these facts aside, the prison stay of your loved one will, without fail, affect you on the outside. You’ll be forced to determine when you’ll visit, what your relationship will be, what sort of financial support you’ll offer (if you’re in a situation to provide) and how you will proceed with your life.
Preparation is also a key factor in how the process will play out once it’s in action. Each and every scenario will differ, some enormously. Financial distress will be a case-to-case basis, and is determined entirely by the inmate and his or her loved ones. Sometimes, the inmate had been the primary breadwinner of the family, in which case a jail sentence could throw a wrench in the fiscal cog of the family. Again, this is why preparation is entirely important. Understanding what’s happened and where you play into it is the first and most important step in coping with family incarceration.
The mental taxation is a different ballgame entirely. There is also an unfortunate social stigma that becomes immediately attached to you and your family when incarceration becomes imminent. This stigma tends to stick easily and becomes hard to detach. BandBackTogether.com phrases the importance of breaking that stigma well, saying:
“While there are no concrete solutions for the social stigmas associated with this situation, it’s very important that you find a support group or people who you can speak with. Being able to talk about what’s happening to you and your family can be a vital source of relief and comfort in this difficult time.”
There are a myriad of support groups, grief counselors and people to talk to that can help you with your problems. These offer means of expressing yourself and speaking with others who have direct experience experiencing what you’re going through. They can offer coping mechanisms and a great release for your thoughts and feelings.