Visiting and Family

Prisons usually allow immediate family members and friends to visit. As in everything in prison, arrangements must be made in advance. Just showing up at the prison gate is almost always a waste of time.

If at all possible, family members and friends should make every effort to visit as often as possible. If frequent visits are not possible, keeping up a regular correspondence is the next best. Studies have shown a tremendously high rate of divorce when one spouse is incarcerated. These regular visits and correspondence can help tremendously. Otherwise, prison life becomes very lonely.

There was once an inmate who found out whilst incarcerated that he was adopted. He told the Rabbi who visited the institution that he was given up for adoption at birth. After contacting the adoption agency he was told that his birth mother was a young Jewish woman. The Rabbi was very suprised. The inmate was very interested to find out more about his new found heritage. He began to regularly attend the visiting Rabbi's study group. With his attendance and increase in knowledge, he became active in the Jewish group in prison. During this time his birth mother was able to locate him. At first she did not want to have anything to do with her son because he was incarcerated. However, after writing to her son and speaking with the Rabbi, she began to visit her son. They developed a very close bond. It was clear that this inmate who at one time felt lonely and abonded had a new 'lease on life.' He looked forward to his mother's visit and was eagerly awaiting the day when he would get out and could be together with his mother. This is exactly what happened.

The visits he had made all the difference. This, now ex-inmate, displayed great personal self-sacrifice to proclaim himself openly as a Jew - he is Black!

Once the visit is over, the inmate obviously feels terrible about the separation. However, in some respects it is much harder on the family than the inmate. Once the family leaves, the inmate knows what to expect from his/her fellow inmates. On the other hand, the family usually faces prejudice from their community. Our society is not very forgiving of people in prison. Therefore, they are not very accepting of an inmate's family. All of the sudden, people who were once close friends and other family members begin to drift away. This alienation is often compounded by financial hardship. It is important to understand that it is difficult on "both sides of the fence".

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