How To Help A Friend Or Loved One Who Is In Jail

If your friend or loved one is in jail, there are plenty of things you can do to help that person while they are there. These things will make their situation much more bearable until they can be released.

Procure An Attorney

You might be able to bail them out, but if funds are limited there is a better place for your money to go, especially if the charge is a felony. In that case, the best thing you can do for your friend is to find a good criminal defense lawyer to represent them.

Make Frequent Contact With them

To save yourself some frustration, you will need to call the jail and find out what the rules are for mail, phone calls, and visitation. You may be able to drop letters off at the jail instead of mailing them, and most inmates want pictures, so include some of you and the person's family and their pets. Your friend may be greatly encouraged by your letters, especially if you can be upbeat and impart some hope. He or she likely already feels guilty and sad about the position they are in, so encourage them with mild humor and expressions of caring.

Whatever you do, do not write or talk about their case or the specifics of any incidents that are related to the case. Any communication you have with your friend can be monitored/recorded and this evidence can be sent to the prosecutor's office. This includes all phone calls too. If you want to know how the case is going, contact the attorney representing the person. The jail may allow you to purchase regular commercially available phone cards to be given to your friend, or they may require you to pay for special cards that they offer, so check with the jail first before purchasing them.

Adding Money To Their Commissary Account

It depends on their rules, but most jails nowadays do not allow any items of any kind (including underwear or socks or toiletries) to be brought to the inmate, so you need to check before attempting to do this. If you want to put "money on the books" for commissary, you may need to bring it to the jail in the form of a money order, or they may accept credit card transactions. You can also wire money to an account for commissary or phone cards.

Certain necessities (like underwear, stamps, paper, and pens) may be purchased from the commissary and can be greatly appreciated by your friend. Some jails are kept at a low temperature and inmates get cold staying there, so they may be very happy to able to purchase thermal underwear or sweats there as well. The evening meal is often served very early so it can be a long time before inmates get their next meal. Being able to buy commissary snacks can help stave off hunger pains and caffeine headaches.

Books and Other Help

Your friend may enjoy the gift of a book or other reading material, and a jail may allow this as long as it is sent directly from a book seller. Other things you can do are:

  • Show up at their court dates to give them support.
  • Take care of a pet for them.
  • Check on family members.

Above all, help your friend or loved one get appropriate legal counsel, and go through their attorney to gain information about the case, if needed. Keep in frequent contact with the inmate and offer encouragement, but don't talk about the case. Put money on their books, and take care of necessary chores for them. Hopefully, they will do these kind of things for you in return, if ever needed.