Guest Blog: Being an Ally for a Formerly Incarcerated Loved One, by Patrick Bailey

The effects of incarceration last far beyond the time someone is in prison. If someone you love has spent time in prison, they may likely still be facing some serious emotional and psychological traumas from their time away. Being a great support system for your loved one can be confusing if you are unsure of how to best help them reintegrate into society. Luckily, there are steps and resources you can use to help them build a new life they love and feel fully supported by people like you. Use these simple steps to help your newly-freed loved one feel supported and inspired to build a healthy fresh start.

Asking How You Can Help

The easiest way to begin your conversation and provide support is by simply asking your loved one what they need. Sometimes simple human interaction is the best way to reintegrate someone into society, since incarceration is an extremely lonely and isolating experience. Ask your loved one if there are any activities they’d like to do, or healthy habits you can practice with them to begin rebuilding their routine at home. People require different levels of support after incarceration, so your loved one may need some time to think about what they need before they accept any help. Be patient and consider these questions you can ask to enhance their new stage of life:

  • “How can I best support you right now?”
  • “What would make your day easier today?”
  • “What habits do you think will help you feel excited for the week?”


Get Educated

Sometimes supporting your newly-freed loved one requires some research on resources available to help them. Luckily, online and community resources are only growing in numbers as the stigma of incarceration is drifting from society. Do your best to consider mental health challenges associated with time in prison and learn warning signs of unhealthy coping mechanisms as they deal with the stress of reintegrating into society. Your loved one may be at risk for symptoms of alcoholism, depression, or anxiety, but these can be treated easily if you connect them with professional help early on. Getting educated with mental health resources can help you support your loved one by connecting them with professionals such as:

  • Licensed psychologists
  • Support groups specific to incarceration and the associated challenges
  • Job-reintroduction or social career services


Maximize Your Time

The easiest way to support your loved one after incarceration is to maximize the time you spend together. Incarceration sometimes causes people to value their time more, and your loved one may leave prison anxious to experience new things and make the most of their time. Joining them may give them the support they need and can add a pleasant social aspect into your time together. Think about wholesome activities that will help your loved one both reintegrate into society and feel fulfilled at the same time. Personal and professional development activities are a great place to start if you are looking for ideas on how to best spend your new quality time. Consider getting into the habit of activities such as:

  • Meditation and other stress-relief practices
  • Walks outside or trying a new fitness class
  • Cooking classes or making the time to grocery shop for healthy food
  • Spending time outdoors


Learning how to support your newly-freed loved one is easier when you consder the things they have missed while incarcerated. You can protect their mental and physical health by staying updated on resources and allowing them to ask for help when they need it. Implementing healthy habits and trying new experiences together will also help you make the most of your quality time and enjoy the memories you do have. Do your best to follow these ideas and brainstorm ways to support your loved one after incarceration so they can integrate into this new stage feeling loved and supported. 

Patrick Bailey is a professional writer who contributes to many blogs.

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