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Jun 172013


What are the effects on the family when the offender comes out of prison and comes home? I found an interesting hand book for social workers, prison employees, parole officers, etc. and others who work with offenders.  It encourages the “system” to engage the family members to take the released offender back into their homes.


Now, of course there  is some difference in the offenses that sent the offender to prison to start with. If it was violence, or even violence against a family member, sexual offenses, etc. I do not encourage the family to take the offender back into the household.

For offenders who are non-violent, not abusive to their family before incarceration, who accept responsibility for their crimes, and have really made up their minds to “live right.” Those offenders may indeed be capable of change. The recidivism statistics, however, indicate that many, the majority, of offenders of all kinds, to not make pro-social choices upon release.

Incarceration of an offender places a terrible burden on the family unit as a whole. I read somewhere that if an offender is married and the prison time is over two years, that the majority of the marriages end in divorce during or shortly after this time.

The handbook lists some of the difficulties faced by families

These numbers, (2.3 million inmates, 5+ million on parole or probation) however, do notcapture the full impact of incarceration on families and neighborhoods. Families experience significant losses during a family member’s incarceration such as the  loss of wages, earning household members, parenting partners, sources of emotional support, etc. These losses extend beyond the  period of incarceration; for example, an ex offender returning to a neighborhood from prison may be stigmatized due to their criminal  justice involvement, and regarded as someone community members distrust or fear, impacting the offender’s family standing in the community, leading to exclusion from neighborhood associations or economic activity. This type of stigma and ostracism can be imposed on a family by the neighborhood, and on an entire neighborhood or community by the larger society. The hand book says, for example

Substance addicted offenders and e-xoffenders have better outcomes when their families are involved in helping them overcome their addiction; however, these families need to be provided with a range of support services to increase their capacity to address the needs of their addicted family member. After 6 months, a significantly greater percentage of adult participants in a program using these techniques stopped using drugs (36%), as compared to non participants (5%)

Notice that the best outcome is that after six months of being released and returning back to the family, only 36% of adults actually stopped using drugs. So that means that 64% of returning offenders who had a drug problem before going to prison will return to drug use while living with their family. Those are not really good odds, and so I think it behooves families to look at all aspects of what taking the offender back into your home may entail.
In an ideal world all the services advises by this coaching packet might be beneficial to offenders returning to the family, but unfortunately, those resources are not likely to be available to offenders or to families.

Having the offender return to the family home where they will be provided with living space, food, clothing, transportation etc. is a big benefit to the “system” but is it a benefit to the family itself?

It is a given that if the offender is high in psychopathic traits, does not accept responsibility for what they have done, or see themselves as entitled to be provided for by someone else, there is little likelihood that the offender is going to make significant changes in a pro-social way.

The skills learned in prison in order to survive do not play well on the outside. I do not doubt that many offenders are very negatively impacted by their stay in prison, and even under the best of situations, reentry is going to be difficult for them, especially if they also have a problem with substance abuse.

Look at all the aspects of the offender in your family before you decide whether to take them back into your household or not. Are they going to be a good influence on the children in the home? What was the offender like before they went to prison? If they were abusive or violent before they went to prison, it is doubtful that they will not resume that behavior upon release and to the family.

Has the offender broken laws multiple times? Have they violated parole or probation in the past?

While “statistics” may show that offenders who return to the bosoms of their family do better, “statistics” can be skewed. Is it possible that these offenders were less likely to be violent to start with so them returning to their families homes was not the CAUSE of them doing better. Many very violent offenders such as my son Patrick are not going to do well no matter what. He went to live with his cousin after he got out the first time…he didn’t come home because he knew if he broke the law I would turn him in, but she wouldn’t. It ended up for her with a SWAT team descending on her house to recover the murder weapon my son hid there. Actually I am fortunate she let him live with her, or it might have been me he killed. He killed Jessica for turning him in to the law for credit card fraud.

If an  returning inmate has truly changed, accepted responsibility for what sent them to prison, and was never violent, then it might be worthwhile if your relationship with them is strong, and you are strong to set some very real boundaries to allow your offending family member to return home and  help them reestablish themselves in the community. But think long and hard about this before you do.

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  4 Responses to “Offenders being released The impact on the family

  1. I found an interesting article today in PsychiatricTimes about addictions, treatments that may help addicts of all kinds, but the article also underscores the fact the “relapse is the rule.”

    It is generally understood that among patients with addiction disorders, relapse is the rule rather than the exception. Drug dependence appears to be related to dysregulation of the reward system and withdrawal-related activation of the stress system. Stress hormones (eg, corticosterone, prolactin) increase in response to withdrawal from psychoactive drugs, increasing the aversive quality of the experience.

    See more at: http://www.psychiatrictimes.com/addiction-research-and-treatment/page/0/2?GUID=586BF05F-2366-46C5-BD82-5741B4A45D89&rememberme=1&ts=18062013#sthash.wAExmkTj.dpuf

    in deciding whether or not to continue a relationship with an offender post release, drug or behavior addictions such as gambling should be thoroughly considered. The truth is that there is always a good chance for relapse, no matter how long they have been sober or drug free. I smoked for most of my adult life, nicotine is my drug of choice, and I quit cold turkey in 2009 and I am just as much a nicotine addict today I was then, but I made up my mind, I would back to a pack a day in no time. But I know the damage smoking does to me, and as a health care professional I still continued to though my family begged me to quit I continued. So I have some idea of what it is like to give up your drug of choice

  2. I am a HUGE fan of Dr. George Simon, Ph.D and I post this link often because it’s so important to know what true change really looks like.

    Also, Lundy Bancroft’s book, “Should i Stay or Should I Go” has a web site and under the bonus materials, has a two part outline of what REAL change in an abuser requires and it’s not just “Im sorry’s”.

  3. Those are too great links, Dotty, thanks for posting them. That’s the KEY in dealing with offenders on any level, whether they are in or out of prison, is to DEMAND real change, not just “lip service”

    “Trying” never accomplished anything, it is DOING that counts.

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