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Old 08-12-2019, 03:25 PM
cj's Unc cj's Unc is offline
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Default Advice: my nephew is going to prison

I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. Looks like my nephew is accepting a plea deal for a 4 year prison term. I wouldn't say we are close but we have a relationship. He has always lived in another state, so our personal contact has been mainly holidays and extended family vacations, and occasional texts.

As his court date approaches, he has started to distance himself (not returning my texts) which I can understand. But he is also distancing himself from his mother (she raised him as a single parent.)

I hope to see him the week before his court date, but honestly am not sure what to say. I just want him to know that he's not alone, and that he shouldn't push away those that try to offer love and support.

Any suggestions or ideas?

Also, my sister (his mother) is understandably upset. Any words of advice as to how to comfort her?
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Old 08-12-2019, 05:47 PM
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One frequent occurrence when someone is sentenced to prison is a huge drop off of "friends and family". If that happens to him, your caring and continued support will be very important to him.

Awaiting the time when his punishments will become official is probably the most difficult time for him. Many folks become depressed over their future, which might explain his recent lack of communications. Give him time to adjust to his "new normal" which is anything but normal.

Let your sister know that you will help and support him throughout his trouble. Parents often also become pariahs to some people as if they committed their child's crime, which makes it even harder on them.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:20 PM
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Not sure how old your nephew is but I know when my son knew he was facing prison he was so upset that he couldn't think beyond that day. Once he got to prison things got a little better in that he felt he could connect again with us (parents and his son).

Its a very difficult at first until they get adjusted. I would just be supportive.
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Old 08-14-2019, 07:38 AM
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As far as your sister goes.....just try to be there for her. Listen to her when she rants, cries, and is upset at the world and her son.
Be gentle with her.

As to the nephew? Agree with your ideas about letting him know you are there for him too.
You can help both of them by suggesting they try to get familiar with the things that will matter later on. Like how to set up phone calls, or visits.

And write. Plan to write him while he's there. Mail means alot.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:21 PM
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Even if he pushes away, don't give up. Continue to show him he's still loved and cared for.
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Old 08-18-2019, 07:53 AM
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I hope to see him the week before his court date, but honestly am not sure what to say. I just want him to know that he's not alone, and that he shouldn't push away those that try to offer love and support.
You answered your own question as to what to say. In situations like these, often less is more. Tell him he's not alone. Tell him you're not going to walk away from him no matter how much he pushes you away and neither is your sister.

The difference between guilt and shame: Guilt is to say "I did a bad thing." Shame is to say "I am a bad person." Someone who is on the verge of going to prison is being publicly humiliated by the system and many of them feel like they are bad people (shame) as opposed to doing a bad thing (but still being worthy of love).

My Dad was so full of shame that he tried to disown me. Repeatedly. I gave him a year of that before I finally told him that I wouldn't leave him high and dry, but neither would I be his scapegoat (he was rather belligerent in his attempts to chase me away).

Your nephew needs you more now than he ever has, and will continue to need you for the duration of his sentence. He needs to know that he is not a bad person, that he did a bad thing, that everyone does bad things or things we're not proud of, that most of us do our bad thing and either don't get caught or don't end up going through the system being publicly humiliated.

If this is his first time dealing with the system (and it sounds like it is), he is probably feeling like he wants to distance himself from family because he is not worthy of love or he doesn't want to taint you all by association.

Continue to write/text/email him. If/when he is inside, write him like his life depends on it. Even if you get no response from him, continue to write. Eventually, he'll settle a bit and those letters are gold. The only thing that's better than a letter is a visit. Get on his visitation list as soon as you can. Go with your sister, she may end up needing help the first or second time she visits.

Whatever you do, don't allow him to push you away. Not until you are absolutely certain that he truly doesn't want to communicate anymore. Even then, write to ask him to let you know that he doesn't want any further communication (give it a year, seriously). Make him tell you that he really truly doesn't want you to contact him - don't accept it through a third party.

Public humiliation is psychologically one of the worst things a human being can experience. It's been being used as a form of punishment since the dawn of the human race. He is feeling that humiliation now. Don't let that stop you from sending him a comforting voice in the midst of his darkness.

Do not discuss his crime, do not discuss any other crime he may have committed, nothing about the legal process. All mail will be photocopied or digitized or otherwise retained on file. Prior to the judgment order, all mail will be shared with the defense atty, the prosecutor, the judge and the county jail. Other than that one big rule? Write. Write often. Always end with how much you support him.

It's huge.
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Old 08-18-2019, 02:12 PM
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We are in a similar situation with our son. Not only has his friends and former fiancé dropped off and dumped my husband and I have lost friends as well.

He’s a federal detainee in county jail right now and he’s miserable. Having said that we give him as much financial resources and reading materials as possible or permitted. He visit him, write and email him. There are so many in jail that have nobody or no financial support. Try and be a presence in his life because he needs you and your support more than words can say.
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Old 08-18-2019, 08:11 PM
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Originally Posted by cj's Unc View Post

Also, my sister (his mother) is understandably upset. Any words of advice as to how to comfort her?
As a mom with 3 sisters who didn't feel like they were supportive - let her know that while he did a bad thing he's not a bad person; that you know she raised her son well, because we feel like we must have been a bad parent; that you want to hear about how he is doing and be kept informed because you care and want to send him cards and such.

If you are better than her at figuring out the system and she is willing to accept help - find out what needs to be done and when so that she can visit, call, write, send care packages, books, CDs, money or whatever is allowed. Most states have a DOC website. Many of the prisons have people posting about what works and what doesn't in forums on this website. Researching is part of what I do and my personality, but for many, trying to figure that stuff out can be overwhelming and confusing. Just knowing that after the application process and when I would be able to visit him and hug him for the first time was huge for me. Knowing I had to comply with the dress code and could be turned away, was stressful. Being able to ask questions in here of those who had already been through the process helped immensely. Not everyone is comfortable with doing so.

For the next 4 years while he is incarcerated, consider the following -

As time went by my sisters always cut the conversation short when I brought up my son, because they didn't know what to say. They never asked for his address at Christmas or a birthday and I felt like I was imposing sending them a text saying a card would be nice on those occasions so here is his address. So, just asking in advance of holidays and such or just saying I am sending him a card and want to confirm his current mailing address would have made me feel like I had support from them. (Send him lots of cards, notes, letters once he is assigned to a prison or even if he is in county a long time.)

Also, as a mom, it was hard being the only person he could talk to on the phone. Money can be difficult, which limits phone calls and visits for many of us. So find out how things work in the prison system he is in and see if you can set things up so he can call you too, if you have that kind of relationship with him and can afford the expense. (I didn't expect that from my sisters as in AZ that requires doing an application and being approved.)

Feeling like we have family that we can talk to and that still care about our child helps a lot.
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