There are literally hundreds of websites on the internet about how to “support” your family member who is in prison. How to hold yourself together, send commissary money to, write and visit the inmate and then ultimately to take your incarcerated family member back into your home upon their release. The “criminal justice” system itself encourages this to some extent, though many times correction officers treat family members like they are the offenders. Visiting someone you love who is in prison can be a humiliating experience itself.
In reading the comments on some of these sites offering emotional support to families, such as http://www.prisontalk.com I can hear the hurt and the frustration of these parents as well as the unending hope that their adult child will ultimately come out of prison after 10, 15 or 30 years and “have a good life” on the outside. Here are a couple of posts from PrisonTalk.
Quote: Originally Posted by zachsmom01 The thing that is so hard for me is that I can look at things and see what my son should and shouldn’t do, but, he doesn’t always see it like that. I mean, he was out of jail for two weeks and got a DUI. Really, why would you think you could a) go to a bar b) leave said bar drunk c) drive 80 miles an hour and d) not get caught. I just don’t get it. After the fact, he always knows what he did was stupid. That’s why he cannot drink. Or else he better get used to life in jail, because that’s where he will be. My son always regrets after the fact. I tell him, then you must enjoy having a screwed up life….living by the system, cuz your not a dumb kid but you sure act like it. I don’t get it either, never will, stopped trying to figure it out.
Sometimes it seems like it is harder for some to learn than others. And some have to learn the hard way….some never learn. Sad but true. But they are always remorseful after the fact. It’s like I told my son one time, “You always say you are sorry but you don’t stop doing what you are doing to stop saying you are sorry. It is like, you slap me and say I’m sorry then slap me again and say I’m sorry, then slap me again and say I’m sorry. It gets to the point that I don’t care if you are sorry…..because I don’t believe it or you wouldn’t continue to do those things.
As these two mothers express their frustrations with the behavior of their adult age children who are now outside prison after a period of some time “inside,” who are acting more like out of control adolescents than adults, the ex-convicts continue the behavior that put them behind bars in the first place.
The second mother’s answer seems to show that she “gets it” that her son’s expressions of “I’m sorry” are not examples of real remorse, because the behavior doesn’t change with the expression. Yet she still continues the relationship with him, though it is continually painful to her to do sol.
In reading posts on the many “how to support your convict loved one” sites not only PrisonTalk, I read the pain and hurt suffered by parents, children, siblings, friends and spouses of inmates and inmates who have been released but don’t change their behavior after prison. While there is some percentage of inmates who are actually innocent of the crimes for which they are incarcerated, the vast majority of criminal inmates are guilty of the crimes which put them behind bars. The vast majority of inmates convicted for a felony crime have never had a moral compass or have lost it if they had one.
When someone commits a felony act that puts them behind bars, they hurt not only themselves but those who love them. It is also an unfortunate truth that the vast majority of inmates who are released continue criminal and/or dysfunctional social behavior after release and go back to prison again, like the second mother posted “….some never learn.”
Domestic violence victim’s supportive web sites frequently use the phrase “you are only a victim once, after that you are a volunteer.” In dealing with our adult offspring who are engaged in criminal behavior, even though we love them with all our hearts, there comes a time when “hope” becomes “malignant” just like a cancer and eats at us, destroying our inner selves.
From the point of view of a grieving parent when my own son first went to prison for robbery, I believed his repentance was sincere, because I wanted to believe it. I over looked the obvious lies that showed it wasn’t, because I wanted so badly to believe it was sincere. That is called “denial” and protects us from accepting a truth that is too painful to swallow. Short term, denial is a protective emotional state, but long term it is not an emotionally healthy way to cope. On sites such as PrisonTalk, I see many examples of “denial” in the loved ones of inmates. While those sites may feel “comforting” to these suffering parents who can commiserate with others suffering the same traumas, the ultimate advice to be “unconditionally” supportive of people who have made criminal choices I believe only produces more pain for these family members of inmates.
Where, as a parent or loved one of an offender, do you draw the line and say “Enough! You are on your own!” The second mother’s answer seems to show that she “gets it” that her son’s expressions of “I’m sorry” are not examples of real remorse, because the behavior doesn’t change with the expression. Yet she still continues the relationship with him, though it is continually painful.
Each of us must decide for ourselves where “to draw the line in the sand” and to be prepared to set boundaries for the behavior we will accept from others, no matter who they are or how much DNA we share. Having an offender in the family is a painful experience, whether they are inside or outside of lock up.