I was on the phone the other day with my sister, and a topic came up, as she was telling me about one of our readers who is going through exactly what my sister and I were going through six years ago.
The question was…
What can you say to someone who is newly locked up behind bars and is uncertain about their future?
They were uncertain whether or not to share about the fun they had day-to-day, the trips they were going on, how beautiful the weather was, etc.
It’s a fair question, and this isn’t the first time we’ve been asked, so we thought we’d write a post about it.
It all depends on the individual and how they are handling their predicament. As for myself, I was not locked up in the early stages of my indictment because I was fortunate enough to get pre-trial. My environment was much different than someone who is stuck in a county jail fighting their case or simply going through the motions of getting sentenced.
Regardless of if you’re locked up awaiting your sentencing or not, the problem is the same…we all are facing, what is my life going to look like for the next (X) amount of years? And once you’re in prison, this same question remains.
I knew I was guilty and didn’t plan to fight my charges. I was simply trying to get the lowest sentence possible, which I knew would range from 10-20 years.
So, during the year I was on pre-trial, I didn’t spend my time trying to realize whether I was guilty or not, or whether I deserved the sentence or not.
Instead, I was able to use my time to prepare mentally for the inevitable, serving time in prison.
I always say, expect the worst, hope for the best, and pray for a miracle.
It’s important only to spend your time working towards things that are in your control. That is working on your mental state, repairing or maintaining the relationships you still have, getting your financials in order, and try to figure out how you are going to support yourself while incarcerated.
So back to the big question, I don’t know what to say to someone in county jail or starting prison whether that’s on the phone or in person, because I don’t want to hurt the inmates feelings and make them feel like they are missing out on even more than they realize.
So the best thing you can do in this situation is simply to ask them, “Do you want to hear about these things, or would you rather we talk about something else?”
It can start by being that simple. Which I’ve found in prison through fellow inmates, many times even if they don’t come out and tell you yes or no, you will hear it in their voice or see it in their body language.
Also, they may not want to hear about certain things early on in their sentence, but that might change over the years. So ask that same question over the years.
Initially, the two things I didn’t want to talk about or read were golf and video games. As silly as it sounds, it was because I knew I couldn’t do them for so long. But after a few years, that didn’t bother me, and not much else did either.
As Morgan and I were discussing this topic on the phone, she said, “Oh my gosh, Noah, I bet you hate to hear all the stories I tell you about our trips that our family and team go on, being I never asked you.”…and all the crazy fun stuff she has going on in her life.
I replied, “Don’t be crazy! If I didn’t want to hear about them, I wouldn’t call you.”
The people I call the most are the most interesting people I have in my life, Sam, Lars, Kevin, Morgan, Nate, and Kyle, just to name a few. They all have amazing things going on in their lives, and I want to hear about it all and be involved in their lives.
The thing is when you are talking to an inmate, especially if you talk to them for multiple years, you will find something out. We have nothing going on in our lives, inside these walls, so if you don’t have a lot to say there is going to be a ton of awkward silence.
I always struggle to find things to talk about in regards to my life here. Even my 8-year-old daughter is sick of hearing the same responses, “I went and worked out,” “I have been watching sports,” “I ate a bunch of sugar,” … and her responses let me know that when she says, “I knew you were going to say that.”
That’s all I do here is work out, go to the same job and do the same tasks, watch sports at night, and make meals with friends. It’s simply a revolving weekly schedule that can only change so much.
You can’t treat your relationship with an incarcerated friend or family member any differently than one you have on the street; you must communicate your concerns and ask questions. And if you feel like you are hurting the situation, but if the incarcerated individual keeps calling you or asking you to visit, you are probably doing a great job at supporting them.
So when you don’t know what to share or not, remember, just ask.
Thanks for listening!