Since the 1970s, the prison system has expanded into a multi-billion dollar industry. With that said, more prisons mean more incarcerated humans within a system that is greatly broken. In today’s world, we either know of someone who’s been to prison or we ourselves have had a quick brush with the law.

Unfortunately, people seem to view the prison system as one that is less about rehabilitating criminals and turning them into functioning members of society and instead, more about punishing them. This is as a result of minimum sentencing rules that have been put into place for certain crimes, not even taking into account the circumstances that surround the specific crime.

What can you do if you yourself are in prison or if your loved one is incarcerated? Below we will talk about resources, activities and different nonprofit organizations that help families and inmates maintain while incarcerated.

Before, During and Post Incarceration

Due to incarceration having many different “phases”, we will break the resources you can use into sections. Please note that some of this information may be completely dependent on the state of incarceration or if the prison/jail is private or government operated.

Navigating The Prison System As An Inmate

While incarcerated, your mindset will be you biggest asset. Whether you’re in jail or prison for a month or for life, these key routines are sure to make your concrete walls feel a little less restrictive.

Meditation: Prisoners who practice transcendental meditation twice a day may experience less stress and fewer mental health issues than fellow inmates who don’t meditate, a small U.S. study suggests.

– Reuters Health

Reading: Literacy programs have been shown to improve inmate behavior and lead to lower recidivism rates.

Prison Education: The significant personal benefits of prison education include increased personal income, lower unemployment, greater political engagement and volunteerism, and improved health outcomes.

Group Psychotherapy: Has shown to be remarkably successful with many of the condemned inmates, leading to less severe mental illness symptoms and a decrease in suicidal ideation. Decrease in inmate depression has also been a positive result.

A mantra written by an inmate at serving 5 years for possession of an illegal substance;

The things I feel are a positive due to my incarceration are:

Prison taught me patience. I learned that’s its actually not a bad quality to possess.

It taught me to appreciate the little things in life, things many of us take for granted on a daily basis. I truly learned that everything that you love or care about can be taken away from you in the blink of an eye.

It taught me not to judge others. Not by their looks, wealth, social status, intellect, not for any reason. You never know another persons story unless you’ve directly walked in their shoes.

It taught me that no matter how bad you think you have, there is someone out there that is worse off than you.

-It helped me to look at life with a different perspective. To realize how short and precious life really is.

Navigating The Prison System as a visitor

The biggest connection to the outside world for an incarcerated individual will without question be their loved ones.

Here’s a short checklist of things you can do to positively impact your loved one:

  • Talk about nature, birds, fresh air, grass and trees, sunshine and how they can use these things to overcome depression.
  • Ask about how you can support them (books they can’t get inside, letters, doing things on the outside for them).
  • Talk about sports, the weather, how the garden is doing.
  • If allowed, touch them gently and reassuringly.
  • Set the example for your inmate of following the rules (however stupid they may seem). The only way your loved one is going to stay out trouble inside and hopefully get out as soon as possible is to follow rules, but quietly and privately.
  • Try to be pleasant and respectful and show you care. Just being there is a strong statement to your loved-one about your level of car for them. It is not easy to get to the joint and visit.
outreach programs
Mental Health Outreach Programs

Basic Mental Health Services

Post Prison Transitional Resources

Lion Heart Foundation is dedicated to playing an integral part in redefining our nation’s prisons as places for healing and positive growth. More than 160,000 copies of the book, Houses of Healing, are in circulation in state and federal prisons as well as larger county jails nationwide. Approximately half of these have been distributed free of charge to prison and jail libraries, prison programs, and individual prisoners nationwide.

The Lionheart Foundation’s Houses of Healing (HOH) program has had a life-changing impact for thousands of the men and women across the country involved in the criminal justice system, providing them with the skills needed for successful reentry into the community.

To read more about Lionheart’s Prison Projectclick here.

To learn more about the book Houses of Healing, click here.

As the times change, prison reform has become more apparent. Keep hope alive even if the programs above may not be accessible in your state. Outreach programs are up and coming and we hope to continuously provide you with the most current information to help both those in prison and their loved ones.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment below and we will reply promptly.