If your loved one is incarcerated, you may be worried about their status and living conditions. Life is not comfortable in state or federal prisons, but there are some things you can do to help improve your loved one’s living conditions there.
Can you request that your loved one’s living conditions in prison be improved?
You can try. Technically, you can submit a complaint to the Department of Justice (DOJ) about your loved one’s living conditions at any time. Whether this request will achieve anything is a different story.
When it comes to general comfort, such as the temperature in prison, a complaint will likely do nothing. On the other hand, if your loved one’s living conditions violate their rights, your complaint may be taken seriously. This could come in the form of discrimination. A prison that is unsanitary or unsafe might also fit this definition. The DOJ says that it takes allegations that prisons violate rights seriously, so you should report them.
If your loved one is in federal prison, you can use the DOJ’s online complaint form. State systems have similar forms that you can use to make a complaint.
But be careful. Sometimes complaints can single out an incarcerated person. While they should not do this, prison staff could make life difficult for your loved one.
How can you help your loved one with the grievance process?
Most prison systems have a grievance process for addressing complaints from people in prison. This is how prison officials prefer to handle these situations. The grievance process is one of the only ways to try and improve living conditions in prison. In fact, most states require that you exhaust this process before filing a lawsuit.
You can help your loved one through the grievance process. One way to help is by printing and sending forms to them directly. Each prison system has its own form to use. You can access the BOP’s form on its website. Other states should have their forms online. Since your loved one does not have open internet access, you will have more access to information than they do. You can help research the topic and guide them through the form.
Some states do allow you to file a third-party grievance. This means you can file directly for your loved one. Otherwise, you can only help them by sending the form to them through the mail. Usually, they must submit the form themselves.
However, filing a grievance could single your loved one out to prison officials. Take this into consideration before filing a grievance or encouraging them to do so.
How can you make your loved one’s life more comfortable in prison?
It is hard to change things for your loved one in prison from the outside. But you can improve your loved one’s living conditions in prison on your own. There are several things you can do to make their life more comfortable.
- Add funds to their account. Your loved one’s commissary has comfort items for sale. Items such as a new pair of shoes, an MP3 player or even snacks can help make your loved one’s life a little easier.
- Write letters. Staying connected with family and friends is an important part of one’s mental health in prison. Write often. Keep your loved one updated on everything going on in the outside world. Let them know how their friends and family are doing.
- Send care packages. You are limited in what you can send to your loved one. But you can still usually send personal photos, cards and books that can help your loved one feel cared for. Find out the specific rules that apply to sending items like these at your loved one’s facility.
- Make time to listen. Your loved one probably has a lot of new stresses in their life. Make yourself available to listen. That could be over the phone or it could be through other communications. Give them a chance to talk about their situation.
- Visit when you can. Nothing beats an in-person visit. You may even be able to hug your loved one. Visit as often as you can.
You can make a complaint to try to improve your loved one’s living conditions in prison. In addition, you can help them file a grievance. But this might not always be a good idea. There are also several ways you can help make their life more comfortable on your own.