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Loving a Long-term Sentenced Offender For those whose loved one is serving 10+ years.

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  #1  
Old 12-07-2018, 12:33 PM
Halo527 Halo527 is offline
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My son has been in prison since May of 2018 and he is facing a 10 year sentence. Up until recently, he has been in fairly good spirits, but now that he is settled, the reality of having to serve the remaining long, long sentence is beginning to set in and it is really affecting him emotionally.



It doesn't help that the sentence was unjust and almost twice as long than the one received by others for doing the same thing. I have a hard time dealing with that, so I understand how he feels about it. If he had been given a fair sentence, one that punished him for his wrong-doing, but also gave him hope to overcome what he did, that would be a different story.



My husband and I have talked to him about concentrating on doing whatever he can to shorten the sentence - California has Prop 57 where he can earn credits to do this - but it takes a while to get set up on the program, so all he really has is a job (which he enjoys), but he is on a Wait List for Vocational Training and the rehabilitation programs. He's been told that he can go to Fire Camp in 3 years and that will greatly shorten the length of time.


What I need help with is what do I say to him to help him through this period? Are there any books that have been written by the previously incarcerated that might help him come to terms with the length of the sentence?



I have already been trying to be very upbeat, telling him funny stories, and mailing him packages that have fun and interesting stories. What else would you suggest?


Thank you,


Halo
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Old 12-07-2018, 01:02 PM
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Just clarifying-- was he sentenced to 10 years at 80%? The reason I ask is because it helps to keep things grounded in reality. Unless he really, really messes up, he won't serve the entire ten years. It will be eight minus any additional credits. I know that's still a good chunk of time and may not feel like a big difference. In our case, his was 37 years at sentencing. If we still said "he has 37 years", we would feel much different than if we looked at his actual time to serve.



But some practical tips--


-Have him make a list of things he would like to accomplish in this time. (education, vocation, working out, foreign language, spiritual growth, read XX number of books per month) Pick one to start and write out a realistic plan. I like using the SMART format because it forces me to really think it through and avoid turning goals into wishes. You can find an example here. If there is something you can do out here to help him facilitate a goal, offer to do that-- if it's reasonable for you to do.

-Have a communication schedule that you can stick to. Phone time is good, but sometimes it's just not practical. If you're having 5+ calls a week there will be a dependency built. Think about the long-term goal of open lines of communication with boundaries. Things happen-- lock downs, illness or unexpected expenses on our side. It's helpful to practice "time apart" (I realize the irony here) so that when it's forced on us, it isn't so traumatic. Utilize letters for 'feeling' conversations. And when you get those letters, remember you aren't charged with fixing it. You're role is to listen, acknowledge and love him.

-A pen pal or mentorship by mail can really make a difference, for the same reason friendship and mentors make a difference out here.

-Ask him what self-help or yard programs are available to him while he waits for voc and ed placement. GOGI, independent bible studies, those things are often informal and inmate lead on the yard.

-Ask him if there are workshops available. They're often sponsored by ARC or other non-profits. Sometimes the topics won't seem applicable, but encourage him to sign up anyway. The worst thing that will happen is that he has a weekend out of his cell engaging in dialogue, gaining empathy for people from different walks and learning new techniques for handling stress and conflict. My husband loves these and while he wasn't a participation kind of guy in the beginning, I'm now hearing how he's played a donkey in a group exercise, sang in front of folks and talked about some pretty deep stuff he never thought he'd be able to acknowledge.

The time factor weighs on inmates and on us. The advice is nearly the same-- focus on today, set short term goals for improvement, stay grounded. No one can swallow the whole elephant. We take one bite at a time.
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Old 12-07-2018, 02:10 PM
Halo527 Halo527 is offline
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Originally Posted by miamac View Post
Just clarifying-- was he sentenced to 10 years at 80%? The reason I ask is because it helps to keep things grounded in reality. Unless he really, really messes up, he won't serve the entire ten years. It will be eight minus any additional credits. I know that's still a good chunk of time and may not feel like a big difference. In our case, his was 37 years at sentencing. If we still said "he has 37 years", we would feel much different than if we looked at his actual time to serve.



But some practical tips--


-Have him make a list of things he would like to accomplish in this time. (education, vocation, working out, foreign language, spiritual growth, read XX number of books per month) Pick one to start and write out a realistic plan. I like using the SMART format because it forces me to really think it through and avoid turning goals into wishes. You can find an example here. If there is something you can do out here to help him facilitate a goal, offer to do that-- if it's reasonable for you to do.

-Have a communication schedule that you can stick to. Phone time is good, but sometimes it's just not practical. If you're having 5+ calls a week there will be a dependency built. Think about the long-term goal of open lines of communication with boundaries. Things happen-- lock downs, illness or unexpected expenses on our side. It's helpful to practice "time apart" (I realize the irony here) so that when it's forced on us, it isn't so traumatic. Utilize letters for 'feeling' conversations. And when you get those letters, remember you aren't charged with fixing it. You're role is to listen, acknowledge and love him.

-A pen pal or mentorship by mail can really make a difference, for the same reason friendship and mentors make a difference out here.

-Ask him what self-help or yard programs are available to him while he waits for voc and ed placement. GOGI, independent bible studies, those things are often informal and inmate lead on the yard.

-Ask him if there are workshops available. They're often sponsored by ARC or other non-profits. Sometimes the topics won't seem applicable, but encourage him to sign up anyway. The worst thing that will happen is that he has a weekend out of his cell engaging in dialogue, gaining empathy for people from different walks and learning new techniques for handling stress and conflict. My husband loves these and while he wasn't a participation kind of guy in the beginning, I'm now hearing how he's played a donkey in a group exercise, sang in front of folks and talked about some pretty deep stuff he never thought he'd be able to acknowledge.

The time factor weighs on inmates and on us. The advice is nearly the same-- focus on today, set short term goals for improvement, stay grounded. No one can swallow the whole elephant. We take one bite at a time.
Mia, he received 14 years and 4 months at 85%, but will do it at 80% because of Prop 57. He's been incarcerated since May of 2017 and spent his first year at county jail. His parole date is Sept 2028, but he can get this down and he will also try for fire camp in 3 years He was told that he had to have 7 years remaining. I think part of what makes it hard for him is that he is so young 23 - and an immature 23 year old as well.

But thank you for these tips, they are not anything I would've known about. I also found a blog on the website by a life coach and will send it to me son too, along with your helpful advice.

Halo
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Old 12-07-2018, 03:35 PM
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Originally Posted by miamac View Post
Just clarifying-- was he sentenced to 10 years at 80%? The reason I ask is because it helps to keep things grounded in reality. Unless he really, really messes up, he won't serve the entire ten years. It will be eight minus any additional credits. I know that's still a good chunk of time and may not feel like a big difference. In our case, his was 37 years at sentencing. If we still said "he has 37 years", we would feel much different than if we looked at his actual time to serve.



But some practical tips--


-Have him make a list of things he would like to accomplish in this time. (education, vocation, working out, foreign language, spiritual growth, read XX number of books per month) Pick one to start and write out a realistic plan. I like using the SMART format because it forces me to really think it through and avoid turning goals into wishes. You can find an example here. If there is something you can do out here to help him facilitate a goal, offer to do that-- if it's reasonable for you to do.

-Have a communication schedule that you can stick to. Phone time is good, but sometimes it's just not practical. If you're having 5+ calls a week there will be a dependency built. Think about the long-term goal of open lines of communication with boundaries. Things happen-- lock downs, illness or unexpected expenses on our side. It's helpful to practice "time apart" (I realize the irony here) so that when it's forced on us, it isn't so traumatic. Utilize letters for 'feeling' conversations. And when you get those letters, remember you aren't charged with fixing it. You're role is to listen, acknowledge and love him.

-A pen pal or mentorship by mail can really make a difference, for the same reason friendship and mentors make a difference out here.

-Ask him what self-help or yard programs are available to him while he waits for voc and ed placement. GOGI, independent bible studies, those things are often informal and inmate lead on the yard.

-Ask him if there are workshops available. They're often sponsored by ARC or other non-profits. Sometimes the topics won't seem applicable, but encourage him to sign up anyway. The worst thing that will happen is that he has a weekend out of his cell engaging in dialogue, gaining empathy for people from different walks and learning new techniques for handling stress and conflict. My husband loves these and while he wasn't a participation kind of guy in the beginning, I'm now hearing how he's played a donkey in a group exercise, sang in front of folks and talked about some pretty deep stuff he never thought he'd be able to acknowledge.

The time factor weighs on inmates and on us. The advice is nearly the same-- focus on today, set short term goals for improvement, stay grounded. No one can swallow the whole elephant. We take one bite at a time.

One question - what is GOGI and ARC?
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Old 12-07-2018, 03:48 PM
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I'm sorry for his unfair sentence, but it is his reality to deal with. Remind him that he is fortunate California offers programs to shorten his sentence. It may take some time for him to apply for and get accepted to the appropriate programs, like education & fire camp, but it is important that he continues to do whatever it is they require until he succeeds. Every day is one day closer to when he will be home again.

I was in federal prison, and it was very disheartening that there were no avenues available to shorten prison sentences, with one minor exception for inmates with recent documented substance abuse problems. The bop has even employed voodoo math so that 85% to serve turns out to be 87 1/2%. The law calls for 54 days of good time for each year of a sentence, but the bop decided that Congress really meant 47 days instead, and the courts have allowed them to get away with it.
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Old 12-07-2018, 06:00 PM
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One question - what is GOGI and ARC?

*aggh! I typed a long answer and my computer locked up.


GOGI-- here
ARC-- here
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Old 12-08-2018, 03:06 AM
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Halo, I am sorry you are going through a hard time. I would also add this to the already great advice offered by Mia and fbop...and this, of course, is only my two cents so I don't know how you feel about it....but sometimes I tell my fiancé that it is okay to feel down in the dumps and just ride through those feelings. I believe it's okay to dwell in sadness for a day or two (I do this myself at times) and then dust yourself off again and face the world, maybe with a little bit more strength as well. So even though I absolutely feel it is necessary and beneficial to be the cheerleader and remind our loved ones of the good things in life, be there for support and try to make them feel better....I also think that it's good to have those moments where we just let them -and ourselves- to feel those sad feelings 100% and not suppress them.
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Old 12-08-2018, 11:42 AM
Halo527 Halo527 is offline
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Halo, I am sorry you are going through a hard time. I would also add this to the already great advice offered by Mia and fbop...and this, of course, is only my two cents so I don't know how you feel about it....but sometimes I tell my fiancé that it is okay to feel down in the dumps and just ride through those feelings. I believe it's okay to dwell in sadness for a day or two (I do this myself at times) and then dust yourself off again and face the world, maybe with a little bit more strength as well. So even though I absolutely feel it is necessary and beneficial to be the cheerleader and remind our loved ones of the good things in life, be there for support and try to make them feel better....I also think that it's good to have those moments where we just let them -and ourselves- to feel those sad feelings 100% and not suppress them.
You are so right!
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