How to strengthen yourself (and learn to help others) on this journey!

Wed, Mar 30 2016 09:19am EDT 1
437 Posts
Mornin', dolls. Today's topic is "How did Jo get so smart?"
Oh, stop laughing.
But seriously...
When I started this long road as a "prison wife", I WASN'T one. I was a very cautious and apprehensive mother of three boys who found my world turned upside down when (COMPLETELY against my will) I found myself "falling for" this guy I knew who happened to be in prison. I was looking for people - if they were out there - who would tell me I wasn't alone and wasn't (too) crazy. I was looking for INFORMATION and EDUCATION about this lifestyle, right along with support. And I figured a lot of it out with help from great and patient folks but I also discovered that a whole lot of my questions they COULDN'T answer, because their situations were so different from mine - different custody levels, different facilities, different "state vs. fed" rules, etc...So how did I learn everything I needed to know about MY unique situation?
Here are a few ways.

1. Google.
Yes, I'm being quite serious. The internet is your FRIEND. Yes, there's misinformation out there, but there are also volumes of GOOD stuff that will answer your questions. In my case, I literally typed in "Oregon State Penitentiary rules" and BAM! There's an entire website, run and maintained by the Oregon DOC with information about EVERY facility in the state. You have to "hunt" a bit, but it's all there - dress code rules, visiting regulations, forms for requesting certain things, contact information for facilities and staff members, state laws and facility regulations...everything. I found that I could answer most of my OWN questions simply by doing a little research.

2. Staff
Ah, yes. The "dreaded" CO's that make our lives hell - except when they DON'T. On multiple occasions, when I've had a question that couldn't be answered by the all-seeing Oracle (Google), I picked up the phone and called the facility OR I waited until a visit, walked up to the desk when it wasn't busy and said politely, "I have a question I'm hoping you can help with." And guess what? EVERY SINGLE TIME, I've gotten the answer I've been looking for. Remember that it's not "us against them". They're just people, with a job to do, and (just like you) they'll usually do it to the best of their ability and very helpfully if they're met with just a little kindness, courtesy and respect. Say please and thank you. Smile. Keep your voice gentle. Make small talk. It works WONDERS.

3. Networking
If you can't find it online and you can't get the information from prison staff, your next best bet is to find other organizations and the people in them who might have the information you need. For example: Need to know if there are organizations in your area that help prison families? Call your local "social services" department and ask them if they know of any. They see people from all walks of life on a regular basis who need help and usually have a really good line on community resources that aren't always advertised well. Check with your local churches and ask them about their outreach programs. Stop in at your local food bank or check online (GOOGLE AGAIN!) for your local Meet-up Groups. You might be pleasantly surprised what's out there once you start hunting around. I linked up with an awesome organization called the "Alternatives to Violence Project" that teaches conflict resolution and anger management workshops WITHIN local prisons here. I help them out and in turn, they've helped ME spread the word about SPWF. I've discovered, simply by having conversations with lots of different local "outreach/community support" folks here, a VAST network of people who, even if they don't deal with the incarcerated and their loved ones specifically, have let me know about AWESOME resources to help myself and others who may occasionally struggle. I have an entire LIST of phone numbers and websites to hand out to folks now.

My point is this. We are here to support, encourage and empower each other but we also have a responsibility to empower OURSELVES. You cannot consistently rely on other people to do the work FOR you and find you the answers that you need. EDUCATE yourself, do your homework and then SHARE, SHARE, SHARE that information with others! :)

Much love,
Mon, Sep 5 2016 12:41am EDT 2
Miss Kitty
Miss Kitty
1 Posts
Very positive message, I'm dealing with these same issues. Trying to figure how this whole thing works canteen,phone calls, now visits. Just bought a car, now need 600 to register it next month, I have no job mind you living off survivor benefits, ugh , been looking for work tired of being broke, stretching my dollars to the limit. I pray and keep going, even though my family thinks I shouldnt be sending him money. Whatever , thanks your words touched me.

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