Updated: Jul 27, 2021
Crime and incarceration don’t just impact the victim or community. It impacts the core of our society: family. Incarcerated parents often miss out on the formative years of their children where love and care are essential in the maturing of the child. The stress and lack of parental role can have a dramatic impact on a child’s wellbeing and adulthood. The emotional trauma of having an incarcerated relative is connected to high levels of depression and anxiety. The dynamic of everyday life changes for a family including distance, financial strain, emotional strain and strong negative emotions.
Upon release, a returning citizen faces the tough journey to reenter society where positive family relationships play a role in providing successful reentry support. However, many returning citizens face families that struggle with anger, resentment and other complicated emotions. Without aid, these relationships can be too deteriorated to rekindle, which can cause even more problems for all involved.
The first days of a returning citizen’s release are crucial for a family. Happiness and fear are common emotions for a returning citizen reuniting with their family. And those same feelings can apply as they return to their community as a whole. Returning citizens can be subjected to rejection, prejudice and judgement, so they often struggle to build strong human connections at a time when they need it most.
As a community member receiving a returning citizen, it all starts with having a mindset focused on the positivity. Your positive support, even with simple small talk and greetings, can have a dramatic effect on the life of a returning citizen. Community support allows a formerly incarcerated individual to prosper in their employment, physical and mental health, and decision making. All of these create a stable environment for the individual that brings families closer together.
If you are a neighbor or family or friend of a returning citizen but don’t know how to help, contact your local reentry program. Reentry programs play a significant role in support for a returning citizen by providing referrals, resources and support. Reentry programs forge a pathway for growth and have the resources and connections many returning citizens need.
When successful reentry occurs, families are not only made stronger, but also more resilient. The support of community programs to returning citizens and their families allows for reunification and a stronger community.
Kelley Traynham is a writer in the North Carolina Community Action Association’s Communications Fellows Program. NCCAA Communications Fellows are students or recent
graduates pursuing a career in communications, graphic design, IT, public policy or a related
field. They receive a stipend for their participation in the program. For more information on the NCCAA Communications Fellows Program, please contact Yvette Ruffin, director of the NCCAA Communications Fellows Program.