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Posted By Emre Umar

Your loved one has recently been incarcerated and scheduling a visit is not a five-minute process, although the process is typically straightforward. Listed below is the items to know if you would like to visit a loved one and how to do it in the simplest fashion.

Entering a new facility

After entering a facility, an inmate is given a Visitor Information Form. The inmate will fill out their portion and mail it to their desired visitor(s) who will fill out the remaining portions and mail it back. A prison may request more background information and could contact other law informant agencies like the National Crime Information Center (NCIC). If a visitor(s) is denied, it is the inmate responsibility to inform this person.

Who can visit?

Visitors can include immediate family (parents, siblings, wife, and children) and relatives (grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc.). However, there can be no more than 10 friends or associates listed. That does not include, foreign officials, employers, sponsors, attorneys, etc. It is important that an inmate lists the most important persons first to get the process moving quickly for them to visit.

Entering the prison: dress code

Once approved, there is a dress code that is required for each person visiting. The prison mandates that no one should be allowed into the visiting center with clothing that could be found provocative. This could result in your being denied visitation. This kind of dress could include: sundresses, miniskirts, crop tops, clothing that looks like inmate clothing, etc. Be aware of the specifics for the prison you are visiting before arrival.

Visiting Hours

Every inmate is allotted four hours of visiting time per month, the prison can provide more on a discretionary basis. The warden, however, can restrict the length of visits or the number of people allowed to visit at once to avoid an overcrowded visiting room. All institutions have visiting hours on Saturdays, Sundays, and major holidays and sometimes with hours during the week. It is best to check with the prison for dates and times.

Behavior and Contact

The prison’s goal with each visit is to keep the room quiet and orderly. A visiting room officer can abruptly end a visit if you or an inmate are not acting appropriately. The contact allowed can vary with the prison and/or inmate, it is always best to keep it to a minimum though. The staff may further limit contact if they fear a security breach.

Visits from friends and family are vital to an inmate so they feel they are still connected to their life outside of prison. A visit can be therapeutic for both you and the inmate. 

Posted By Emre Umar

Releasement from prison is a wonderful time for family, friends, and, of course, your paroled loved one. However, this event is not the end of the journey for a released inmate. They may still be under close observance after release, they will be on parole to the state. This can be a challenging time to have your loved one come back into the community.

While your loved one has been away, there was bound to be a strain on your relationship. You were relying on letters, phone calls, and visits. But even with both attempting, your relationship may have been restricted due to work, distance, etc. Your loved one will need to readjust and have rebuild the trust and bond you had before entering prison.

Each year, the Division of Parole supervises 45,000+ parolees in New York. After an inmate is released, a field officer is assigned to the case. A field officer is responsible for visiting the parolee at their residence and work or program locations. There will also be office visits with unannounced drug tests. The parolee is responsible for following the terms of their release, any parole violation can result in a return to state prison for a duration of time.

It is important to understand the terms and conditions of your loved one’s release. You can be a resource for a parolee to go to in times of need. This will be a time for your loved one to readjust into society and they will can have help from many resources and programs that their parole officer would be in touch with. 

Posted By Emre Umar

            Reassembling the fragments of a life shattered from incarceration is no easy feat. Alone, it is an absolute horror, rivaling that of prison itself. For the mentally ill, reentry is unimaginably worse. In New York, there are programs in place that do all they can to aid in making this transition as smooth as possible. The Center for Urban Community Services (CUCS) is one such organization. CUCS offers two Reentry Coordination Systems (RCS) for the recently released – reentry for New York State Prisons and reentry for New York City Jails – both of which deal specifically with the care of the mentally ill.

            Both programs, administered for the New York State Office of Mental Health and the New York State Office of Mental Health and the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene respectively, are designed to aid initially with housing for the released prisoner. RCS for State Prisons manages access to supportive housing units, while RCS for Jails will facilitate referrals to housing units. Both will coordinate video teleconference interviews, and RCS for State Prisons will arrange video teleconference interviews and  ACT services, while RCS for Jails will act as a referral party for these services. RCS for State Prisons goes a step further, facilitating outpatient treatments for those with mental health problems and providing coordination for entitlements of those individuals.  All outcomes are trackable, and training is provided by RCS for New York State Pre-release staff and New York City Discharge Planners on post-reentry services.

Posted By Emre Umar

With mental health continuing to be a major topical issue in contemporary news, the state of treatment of prisoners with mental illness not only will constantly become a conversation, but should be.  In New York particularly, but around the nation, it has become an appealing trend to not simply lock up the mentally ill but to contain them within solitary confinement.  There are good reason why solitary is depicted in pop culture as being a closet-sized space that can drive sane men insane: because that is in fact what it has shown to do.  The mentally ill then, especially, should not be confined to such an experience.

            Regardless of the mental state of a detainee, the average cost of housing someone in solitary confinement is roughly $78,000.  This figure is triple that of normal prison containment.  Back in the 20th century, a stay in solitary would last anywhere from a few days to, in the most extreme cases, a few weeks.  Currently, time spent in these confined, windowless, closet-sized boxes can span years.  Human contact is limited to the small slit in the door where food is dispensed, and even exercised has a one-hour limit.  These regulations are the general norm for any patient, regardless of mental state.  A mentally ill prisoner is expected to behave and react to solitary in the exact same manner as an average individual.

            Reports of “insanity” are not uncommon.  Reports have detailed inmates mutilating their own genitals or developing fixations on ordinarily mundane aspects of life such as urination, among other things resulting from dwindling impulse control.  Others experience hallucinations, panic attacks, and severe paranoia.  Regardless of the cause, the result is always the same: a prisoner confined in solitary is a huge danger to himself as his mental state continues to suffer.  Currently anywhere from one-fifth to two-thirds of the prison population in solitary confinement went in with a mental illness.  The guidelines of the Justice Department have made some headway, recognizing that the extreme isolation of solitary can pose drastic psychological risks to already at-risk prisoners.  We can do more.

Posted By Emre Umar

The most prevalent, persistent problem facing the American prison system is, without contest, prisoner reentry.  Statistically, 6 in every 10 inmates released will recidivate, which means they will be rearrested and return to prison within a three-year timeframe.  In Pennsylvania, on average 10% of all persons arrested are those who were previously incarcerated.  There is a remarkably high likelihood for young offenders to be rearrested.  States recognize this as one of the most dominating problems in society, and there are programs in place to prevent this problem from ever occurring.  The Pennsylvania Prison Society is one such organization that seeks to help recently released men and women readjust to a manageable life.

The Pennsylvania Prison Society, founded in 1787, serves the Philadelphia area and greater Pennsylvania area and is one such correctional transition program.  There, they recognize the difficulty a recently released prisoner can have trying to adjust to a sense of normalcy, and share a focus of helping in finding employment.  Sessions are offered that aim to prepare the recently released with goal-setting, resume building and interview preparation, appropriate everyday etiquette, self-finance know-how, and opportunities for networking and personal interaction.  Time with a computer can be provided for those without access, for the purpose of finding potential employment.  Most importantly, the Pennsylvania Prison Society conducts operations for free, easing some stress.

Acclimating back into society is no simple process.  The Pennsylvania Prison Society is one of the many programs understanding that constructive corrective services and a gentle helping hand can save lives.  The statistic can be lowered through trust in these programs.   With a willingness and eagerness to help rehabilitate those reentering the world, programs can give something of the utmost importance to prisoners waiting for their day to go home: faith in a system that works, and acceptance that they can still have a normal life.