Thinking back on those 9 months we had between when I was first investigated and my sentencing words like awful, horrible, painful, fearful and agonizing come to mind. We had no idea what to expect and no one to tell us what we could do to prepare for what was likely going to be a fairly lengthy prison sentence. So how did we handle it? Not very well, to be honest. We did the best we could with what we had, but looking back and knowing what we know now, we could have been so much more productive. The worst part was the waiting for the inevitable. So what can you do to make the most of the time prior to incarceration? Here are a few tips. There are many more to follow in future posts.
1. Don’t lash out at those you love. There are going to be times when the stress is almost unbearable. You’re going to feel like you’re ready to explode with fear, anger and anxiety. Don’t. Instead, find ways to reduce your stress. Work out, run, pray, attend church, seek counseling, read, etc. Do all you can to focus on building up you and your loved ones. This may seem like the darkest time, and it may well be, but it is not the end. We got through it and so can you.
2. Congregate, don’t isolate. The worst thing you can do is isolate yourself away from the world. You may want to just shut off the lights, crawl into bed and sleep away the wait. Fight that urge. Get out and do something, anything. Go to the mall, church, a movie, the library, anywhere with people. Isolation breeds fear, congregating breeds hope.
3. Plan ahead. Once you’re in prison you won’t be able to easily manage your finances and other affairs. Take this time to get them in order for you and your family. In prison the most you will likely make is less than $100 per month (a few make more, but it is the exception) so you won’t likely be able to send money home. Do you need to sell your home? (We did). Do you need to down-size? Do you need to sell a car? It will provide much comfort and peace to make these decisions now rather than to wait until you are in prison and your family is left holding the proverbial bag.
4. Get healthy. Prison life is taxing. The food leaves much to be desired, the beds are steel, the facilities are usually spartan and health care makes medicare look like a platinum Obamacare plan. Use whatever time you have prior to prison to get into shape. Lose weight. Tone up. It will not only make your time more productive and help you stay out of medical, it will also help you walk a little taller and feel more confident if/when you are confronted physically.
5. Strengthen your faith. There are many temptations in prison. Preparing spiritually will help you overcome those challenges and avoid the troubles that go along with succumbing to temptation. Connecting with a church, a pastor and others who have a strong faith with also provide you with a support group with whom to communicate during your sentence. Phone calls, letters and email are a huge lifeline for those in prison. Mail call is the most popular time of day. Just one letter can sustain you for days if not weeks. Building relationships before prison can help you feel connected even as you do your time apart from your loved ones.
I read a great quote recently by Rev. Frederick Langbridge – “Two men look out the same prison bars. One sees mud, the other sees stars.” The better you prepare for the prison experience the more likely you are to see stars instead of mud.