On top of the emotional cost of going to prison or having a loved one incarcerated, there are practical matters that bombard those left behind. Handling finances with a new loss of income or managing an inmate's assets without his input may be difficult. While nothing can make going to prison a stress-free event, you can do your best to prepare everyone involved.
Prepare for the Worst
When you know prison is a possibility, discuss it with your family and friends as soon as you can. It's better for everyone if you handle it as a worst-case scenario; if your attorney told you there's a slight chance you'll get probation instead of prison time, act as though prison time is a certainty. Choose a time to sit people down and tell them prison is a likelihood for you. Try to stay calm even when they're emotional. If you're guilty, express remorse and be truthful about your involvement in the crime. You're better off having friends than making enemies at this time, as your family needs all the support it can get.
Get Them Ready
Whether or not you tell your children the truth of the matter is up to you, although the U.S. Federal Prison Guide remarks that children often take the matter of a mother or father going to prison more stoically than you'd think. Help your spouse and children cope with your impending loss. Teach them to do the practical things you normally take care of yourself, such as changing fuses, washing clothes, changing a tire and unclogging the sink. Keep pertinent information such as phone numbers, log-in identifications, passwords and account numbers in an accessible notebook.
Discuss money. If your imprisonment means someone close to you is going to be affected by the loss of your income, make plans for him to survive financially without you. Consider selling anything of value you and your family don't absolutely need. Call in debts owed to you, even if you can't get the full amount, and pay off what debts you can. Write out a budget by which your spouse or family members can reasonably live. If this means they need to move into a more affordable home, downsize to one car or take on an additional job, discuss that now.
Prepare yourself for the realities of prison. You'll be entering a self-contained world with its own rules, etiquette and danger. When you first arrive, keep to yourself and stay quiet. Be very mindful of manners; respect other people's things, watch your language and don't boast about your crimes. Violent and sexual crimes often are taken as personal offenses by other prison inmates, who may target you if they know you've committed them. Stay away from drugs, as most fights are direct results of drug use.
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