First of all, Kate thanks so much for creating the group. It is amazing to have the chance to connect with other folks who have loved ones in prison, and to explore this in a dharma/practice context.
I have a question about privacy. In talking about my experience of having loved ones in prison in the past and present, I do not want to say so much that anyone could be identified, or worse, could be subject to reprisals. I bring this up because it has happened on other boards -- a friend currently in prison was snitch jacketed as a result of discussion on an internet forum. I am wondering how much we really can say here, and if there are topics we should perhaps agree not to talk about because this is not a secure forum.
Hi - I want to add my thanks to Kate for creating the group. Joshua, I'm new to prison internet forums so I don't know that I can offer an opinion regarding your question - but thanks, I hadn't considered the fact that the world is smaller all the time, and discussions here could easily affect our loved ones. Guess that's a good 'head's up'.
I'm glad as much as anything to have access to some people who are familiar with having someone they love sentenced to prison.
My son is 33, and has spent too much time in prison. I'm hoping he'll be paroled shortly. He'll be coming to live with me. We're looking forward to this, but are also aware that the transition can be difficult.
I've started to learn about Buddhism during the past year, through reading and some very good podcasts. I guess my next step will be to find a local meditation center, but I feel as though I've begun to practice already (& have a long way to go :))
Thanks for your note. It is so difficult to be anticipating release but not sure when it will happen or what the conditions will be. When is his next parole hearing?
When I was in my early 20s, my partner-at-the-time went back to prison after the crown appealed his sentence and added more time. It was really difficult as he thought he was done the first time around. He was out for nearly 10 years, and is back in right now; although we are not partners any longer we are still friends and are always closest when he's inside (as twisted as that may be, it's a familiar dynamic and there is something about that that brings out the care and concern for each other that has persisted through the many years of our friendship).
I went through the process of release with him the second time he was in prison, and it was amazing how many little things he had to adjust to. For some reason the one that has stuck with me the longest is taking him out to a restaurant and watching him be awkward using metal cutlery. He had used plastic cutlery for long enough to have difficulty with the weight of a metal fork. That was a 2 year sentence -- I imagine for someone who has been in prison for a longer period of time the culture shock would be much more intense, and also the realities of having to try to find work with no recent job history, and all the societal stigma against people who have done time.
What are your supports like? I hope you will talk as honestly and openly as you feel comfortable with here. I am nervous about online forums because of the harm that can be done to our vulnerable loved ones, but it is so important that we be able to create a virtual sangha for support of each other through difficult times.
Hi Joshua -
Thanks for the note! My son's hearing was this past Tuesday and I was able to pick him up and bring him home Wednesday morning! He's also diabetic. His main focus right now has been to stay clean & sober, line up medical resources to manage the diabetes, find work and of course fulfill the requirements of his parole.
We live in a small town, and most of my family is here. This along with some good friends compose my support. Those close to me are concerned, loving and supportive, but there's always some discomfort in sharing news about loved ones in the prison system.
The issue that my son has mentioned is getting used to using his own time - he tells me "It's been so long since I've decided what to do - I'm used to being told 'now you do this, now you go here'" So, once he got home, he was trying to adjust to the concept of visualizing his day.
It sounds as though your friend is out now - I hope so, and I'm glad he has a friend like you that he can count on during his worst (time?) times!
Wow! My thoughts will be with both of you. I am always amazed how much practical stuff has to get set up in addition to the adjustment of going from being in an institution to being outside (and having to make a lot of decisions). I'm glad that you have family and friends close by to provide real time support. Are there drug & alcohol supports that your son has found useful that he can continue to access near home? That is sometimes difficult for people -- to have access to free counselling while inside and then not much available on release.
My friend won't be out for a while yet -- August 2008 at the soonest. This is the longest time he's done, and the first time in a federal prison in the US (he's Canadian), so it is difficult for him to be so far away from friends and family. Off to write him now. And yes, there is definitely something to be said for the kinds of family/friendship bonds that endure over many years and many changes in the nature of the relationship. I am very lucky that way!
My son turned 33 July 4 and is doing his second jail stint. He is a convicted felon and a heroin addict with a heart so big it's almost impossible to understand this. I let him come home after his first time in jail and in retrospect it was a mistake. I wanted to believe he was doing the right thing but he was not and was rearrested in April. I realize now that by letting him stay here, I was enabling him. This is a hard call and I'm not judging your decision. Just be alert.
I have been a serious Buddhist practitioner for 6 years and this has enabled me to keep a peaceful, loving mind. It has also given me the strength to say NO and he has responded to this with a good heart.
You can only control one thing in this life and that is your own mind. Your wish to find a meditation center is a wonderful solution....I don't know where you are located but get hold of a book called Transform Your Life by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso and find a center near you.
This tradition has given me the tools to help myself and my family in a simple accessible way
oh yes, thanks for bringing that up joshua. Lets try to formulate some guidelines that might work considering the possible implications. What do you suggest? I have been on a few prisoner family online forums where it seems folks discuss just about any angle...but I hear your point and is one we should be aware of.
We are going to work on getting more in this group in the next few months so Im hoping others will add to this discussion..
I can only speak from my own experience and I welcome discussion about what will work well for everyone who's on this forum.
For me, it is fundamentally important to not give the name of my loved one in prison, say which prison they're in, or give any other information that could identify them (e.g., details about their conviction that could be looked up online to find out who the prisoner is). That way when I talk about my feelings about their situation, it can't be directly linked to them or used against them. For me that is important because my friend's privacy has already been violated umpteen times as a prisoner and I owe it to him to be careful about how much I say about any aspect of his life. When talking about our relationship (relevant in terms of the difficult support issues that come up) it is especially important to be mindful of this as he is not completely out as bisexual (especially not in prison). But also people speculating online about the nature of his conviction and the process of the trial has had very severe consequences already for him in prison so I'm cautious about that.
I would also recommend that each person be mindful about how much of their personal details -- including the sometimes intense feelings we can have about our loved ones being in prison -- are OK to share on an open board like this. Anyone can subscribe to PDN and to this board, and we really don't know each other. We can all say that we won't share information posted on this board anywhere else, but the reality is that people do (usually with good intentions, but there are sometimes reporters who subscribe to boards like this and use the information inappropriately) so if there's anything any of us wouldn't want to go further than this board we probably shouldn't say it here.
These are just suggestions and I'm totally open to discussion. It is really great to have this space to chat with all of you and I don't want to promote fear or insecurity about using the forum. It's just that it can be a vulnerable position to have someone you love in prison, and I would hate to see that have negative consequences for any of us or our loved ones.
Josh ~ and others...
I'm afraid I really don't understand the fear, at least I wasn't thinking along those lines. My son actually has a blog that he has asked me to promote for him, he writes his blog entry, sends it to me and I post it. He asks me everyday if there are any comments. What type of problems could come from others knowing you are in prison? Or knowing you have a loved one in prison? Maybe I'm not following ~ I'm like that at times, I have a problem reading and can misunderstand at times.
Just wanted to add my two cents :-) I love the idea of sharing with others who are aware (first-hand) of what you speak. I plan on trying to get very involved, there is a ton I have to learn.
Much love to all,
Hi, Nina. I think prisoners are just like people on the outside -- some are very outgoing, want people to know the details of their situation, etc. and some are very private or shy. Decisions about how much to share in that sense really depend on the prisoner's personality. But one difference is that some prisoners are in vulnerable situations where details that are posted could bring on harassment from guards or other inmates, or after release difficulty with work/housing/relationships.
Online forums are completely public but can feel very personal and intimate and the risk is that people say things in trust that then get forwarded elsewhere and have much broader implications. This can happen even if we're just talking about our own feelings about a situation and not naming names or referencing the institution where our loved ones are housed. It is amazing what little details can be put together to figure out someone's situation. I've noticed on PDN that many of us use full names and photos (perhaps real or perhaps not) which makes that even clearer.
As examples from situations that I've seen or experienced directly, I don't think it's always safe to talk online about any of the following topics except in very general terms:
* situations where our loved ones are doing things that are potentially breaches of institutional policy (e.g., using drugs, getting supplies sneaked in by visitors, sending letters to other prisoners via an outside 3rd party)
* enough of the details of why our loved ones are in jail for someone to figure out who our loved one is
* our loved one's relationships with other people in jail (romantic or otherwise; friendly or hostile)
* jailhouse conflicts that our loved ones describe to us or have been involved in
* any details re pending cases/appeals, or anything about our loved one's situation that could affect someone else's case/appeal
* any descriptions our loved ones share about other people they encounter in prison (other prisoners or staff)
* any stigmatized activity (e.g., being gay or bisexual, being transgender, having been convicted for sexual abuse or sexual violence)
It's a dilemma, because I know from my own experience that it is crucial to get support on all of these very charged topics. But I have grown increasingly wary, from hard experience, about the ways that people on the outside can accidentally create huge problems for our loved ones.
At the same time, I am one of those folks who uses my real photo and name on this website, because there is a connection through that that I find valuable. I'm not at all private about saying I have a loved one in jail, and I'll talk in some detail about the situation, but tend to err more on the side of caution now than I used to when I was first really struggling and needing to vent for my own sanity.
That's just my perspective. Other people have probably had very different experiences.
This is a bit off topic but this whole privacy issue is something I wonder about a lot in regard to online forums. This site is 'private'..meaning only members can read the entire posts and they wont show up on google search, etc. (except for sometimes one sentence).
But i do know that when I've created online groups on these ning sites that are totally private...folks do tend to engage MUCH more. I wonder if this family members group should be 'private..by invitation only or invitation request only'?...that way folks will know the only people reading the threads are family members ..thus peers??
Not sure I can even change the settings at this point (would have to start a new group probably) but I do think that the feeling of 'safety' allows people to engage more in public discussions.
hey nina, i love that "letters from the inside" blog idea....you could also post stuff on your blog page here (copy from his blog) and then I could feature it for folks here to comment and reply. would you like to try that? or you could even make him a whole 'my page' here of his own (but then you would have to log in and out..which is kind of a hassle).
we could also set up a forum group for this kind of posting because there are a lot of family members on this site and others might want to post as well.
hummm..I think i might try that.....i'll think more about it...but let me know if this interests you or if you think this idea would work.