Extended Family Founder and Executive Director Laure Clemons and her husband Jerry have led the Going Home Workshop for more than 1,700 incarcerated individuals who were ready to be released from prison. This workshop is designed to help families and returning citizens through the transition of reentry, so that the process of “going home” runs smoothly for everyone.
Jerry, from his own personal experience with incarceration, and Laure, with her experience of keeping her family together through Jerry’s incarceration and his return home, worked together to identify the key elements for restoring the family relationships after incarceration. Successful family reunification after incarceration begins with forgiveness. The returning family member must forgive themselves first for the pain caused to the family by their incarceration. After this necessary beginning step, the returned family member can seek forgiveness from each family member individually, since each person carries their own hurt from the separation while their loved one was away.
Restoring family relationships involves recognizing how the family dynamics have changed since the incarceration of the loved one. It is important for the returning family member to recognize that life outside of prison has continued, and change in the family structure was inevitable and necessary for the family to continue to function. Everyone must accept the differences in the family dynamic from before the loved one was incarcerated. One way to begin to strengthen the family bond again is for the returned loved one to attend family events that are important to the individual family members, whether a baseball game, wedding, or birthday party. When the returned loved one makes an effort to be present at the large and small events, it shows family members that they are important, and that restoring the family bond is important.
Other elements of success involve self-reflection for the returned family member, particularly in acknowledging the frustrations that come with adjusting to this new normal. Communication is an important component of success after incarceration, as is patience. The returned citizen must adapt to the changed world, which is vastly different compared to life in prison, and recognize that the transition will take time. One basic key to success after incarceration is to model integrity by treating people fairly and remaining truthful and dependable. And, it is important that the returned citizen invest in themselves, including developing interests that are healthy and positive and by choosing friends and activities that lead to continued success in their family and community life.
Extended Family is dedicated to helping families adjust to life during and after incarceration. For more information about support and programs for all members of the family dealing with incarceration, please visit our website, www.extendedfamilyhelp.org.