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What to Do When Someone You Love Goes to Jail


Do you know someone who has recently been put into jail? Are you feeling overwhelmed, confused, angry, upset, or depressed? These feelings and emotions are completely normal. Having someone you love go into jail is an awful situation to experience; It's as if you've lost someone but they are still alive. It's hard to describe it to someone who hasn't experienced it.

You may notice yourself going through somewhat of a grieving process. Allow yourself to fully experience all emotions and feelings regarding the situation, and seek guidance or counseling if necessary. The person in jail might need you now more than ever. So, allow yourself to start a healing process, and then do what they may need of you. Here are some useful tips below:


Beware, visiting someone in jail is stressful and annoying. Be prepared to do a lot of waiting. Every correctional institution is different but they all have their own rules and guidelines regarding visitation. There are, most likely, specific days of the week and times when visits are allowed. And there will probably be a dress code too.

I have a family member in jail, and I've been visiting her for about 8 years now. I can only visit her on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, or Sundays, and the hours are in blocks of 3-4 hours (twice a day). I'm not allowed to wear jeans, tank tops, or jewelry (except an engagement/wedding ring). There are tons of other attire restrictions as well. My average wait-time to get in and see her is about 2 hours. By that time, I'm usually tired, hungry, and thirsty. So, as I said before, be prepared. Hopefully, my family member will be out of jail in 2-3 years so I won't have to deal with visitation "annoyances" ever again.

If the jail you are going to visit has a website, check it out! You should be able to find all the information you need on there.

Phone Accounts & Money

Your loved one in jail will most likely call you at some point. The calls are initially made "collect" but a phone account can be set-up on either end. I set-up a phone account through my cell phone to save my family member some money, and also because I don't have a home phone so I can't receive collect calls. How the phone account usually works is that you will receive a call from your loved one; it will be an automated message. It should allow you to set-up an account or add money to an existing account. In the state that I live in (MA), it allows me to put money on my phone account in increments of $25. So, when my family member calls in, she doesn't have to worry about paying for the call. The phone account is very useful for people who plan on being in prison for a long period of time; most people who are only in jail for a small amount of time will usually just call collect. But it's really a matter of preference, convenience, and money availability.

Your loved one may need you to send money. In MA, we can only send money in the form of a cashier's check or money order; cash and personal checks are not allowed. Also in MA, you are only allowed to send money to someone that you personally visit in jail. So, my family member couldn't tell me to send money to one of her new friends in jail.

Guidelines and policies regarding phone accounts and money-sending in your state (or even country) may be different than the state I live in. It's always important to find out how these things operate beforehand so that you don't get overwhelmed and frustrated.


Again, this is a heart-wrenching and stressful time for you. But it's even worse for the person inside the prison. He/she needs your support, love, and guidance. They need to be kept on the right-track and they need to stay positive. So, make sure you are an active force in their life. It can get very lonely in jail, especially at the beginning, when they don't know anyone yet. Encourage your loved one to participate in programs within the jail, such as groups, counseling, school classes, employment, etc. Going suddenly from the outside world into prison can be hard for the body and mind to handle. So it's important for them to try to maintain some normalcy and regular routines into their new, and hopefully temporary, reality.

Give your loved-one Hope!!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


URIEL on April 01, 2020:


me on December 14, 2018:

my uncle is in jail for life, n i am hurt i can not stop crying, he is my favorite uncle. ughhhh i miss him im so hurt

Teresa Singleton on June 27, 2018:

does any one on here know how to get a loved one moved to a jail closer to their home so at least they can get visits i do believe if they can get regular visit form their love one it could help them relief some stress from both parties

Sarah Jane on February 22, 2018:

Hi. Me n my bf actually met online. We phoned, videoed everyday. Even when he was at work lol. We made plans to get married and he was going to move to detroit to be nearer his family as he had a job lined up there. During this time, a so called friend of his tried stirring trouble with us and my bf ended up hitting him for something he called me and he wound up in jail. Because Im in the UK and he is in a Texas jail, I cant visit him or call him as the jail phone services wont accept international calls. I rented a PO Box in california so we could exchange letters cheaper and quicker. I miss him dearly. He has been away for 3 weeks but it feels like months. I cant get any information from the jails or courts and its been a chaoctic ride. Your all right. It does feel like your in mourning. He is constantly on my mind and he feels the same. He could face anything up to a year in jail and Im so scared and worried about everything. I am going to wait but I cant stand feeling like this anymore. Has anybody had a long distance jail relationship n if so, how is it going with you?

Bee on August 31, 2017:

Eish it's hard for me as it was on the first day when my husband was arrested early January this year 2017 I was 3 months pregnant ,I cried I couldn't sleep eat think normal, but am still alive I managed to give birth to our bby girl in June things are still tough for me he hasn't been sentenced that pains me more my bby just turned 2 and am not working looking for a job but it's not easy lady's I wish and pray for my husband every day for his release I need him home, sometimes it's not easy to be around people who got there husbands around ,I know we are many out there I haven't lose hope am still believing that he will come out to all the prayer people help me to be strong .

AJ on August 01, 2017:

Thank you for the insight. I am a middle aged man, and my loved one is in his mid-20s. We fell in love a couple days before his incarceration, and the arrest was at the beginning of our relationship, although we were friends previously for years. No one knows of our relationship in his family at all, not his parents, brothers, or sisters, nor his daughter, nor his ex-wife, nor his ex-girlfriends. Perhaps someone knows of some support out there. Thank you so much for the guidance.

family on April 27, 2017:

What do I tell my dad who feels like God is against him? He's been crying and telling me he doesn't understand why God is letting them take his baby away from him.

Tylar Citizen on April 08, 2017:

My friend is in jail. My heart aches from him until it hurts and I start to break down and cry. I love him so much and I begged to God to just please give him one more chance.

Kitty on March 19, 2017:

It depends on what he's going to jail for but if you are dating a guy and he puts his hands on you and gets arrested. As much as you might love him you need to let him go and move on with your life. I wish that is what I did almost three years ago I hung onto someone I loved and he ended up screwing up my life and betraying me by continuing his violence. It would of been best for both of us to just move on. I don't think I'll ever forgive him and it sucks to harbor these dark waters in your heart.

judyg15 on January 26, 2017:

My husband just got arrested yesterday. I have a 4 month baby and i cry so much i feel so lonely. they will probably give him 2 to 3 years not sure yet. I have a lawyer that will only help for him to not be taken to prison. its his first time being in jail.

monidawn on October 08, 2015:

Hi. My boyfriend was just sentenced 1-2 years. He was just taken into custody Tuesday October 6th. I'm devastated. My world has just come to a stop. What do I do? How do I show support for him?

I'm so numb and sad.

Thanks for the post. I'm glad I'm not alone.

scott on October 07, 2015:

Thanks for posting this topic,i know im not alone,i lost my brother 3 years ago to life sentance ,and its so painful,like he died,i still cry just about everyday,im still a mess from it been out of work,he was my employer and friend for 20 years as well as my brother for 40 years,im just lost and heart broken,wake up from terrible nightmares about him all the time ,now hes many states away and i cant even visit,even though its hard to see him like that,havent seen his face in 3 years,i just want to HUG him so badly,im crying as i write this,i know i probably need help myself,well thanks for listening,and thanks everyone who posted,it so hard to deal with but were not alone,,,

Author Victoria Sheffield from Georgia on June 11, 2015:

I know how you feel. I have gone through the same thing. It hurts really bad and yes it feels like someone died. WMy brother and I are very close. I mean I just hate to see anyone living like this. I don't wish it on anybody!!

FELICIA PERRY on June 11, 2015:

My brother was put in jail on yesterday an it feels like he has died.I can't stop thinking about him all I do is cry because he's only been home from jail a year wtbs to know him is to love him.He has a heart of gold an will give u the SHIRT off his back I just really miss him.........tears tears tears

Jennifer on May 21, 2015:

This is

Alina on March 07, 2015:

This is a really great article. My brother might be in jail for a very, very, long time. A minimum for maybe 10 years (they haven't told us anything.) I feel like crying all the time, because I feel that he's gone. He is such a young brilliant person. I just can't cope with it.

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on January 18, 2015:

Hey Lena, sorry for the late response. How are you three handling this now? It gets better and more "normal" with time. But this is really never easy. I myself used therapy and support from my loved ones to get through this difficult circumstance. Do you think the children would benefit from therapy?

Lena on November 05, 2014:

My childrens father was just sentenced to 7 years no parole, should I tell my 9 year old daughter now or wait until his bond is revoked. My son is 13 and he is not taking it well at all. I want to make whatever time they have together memorable but we are low on funds and we need to save for imprisionment fees, any suggestions. The stories really have helped me cope but I don't know how to help our children get thru this we have spent the last few days crying and pretty silent...please help

Steve on July 24, 2014:

Maria, no amount of hokus pokus BS will get my love out of where she is. I even find that post insulting. What is this guy gonna do? Flip some tarot cards and a judge is magically going to let her out? Quit trying to prey on those that are suffering the loss of their loved ones by incarceration. It's not only bad character, it is inhumane to add to their pain.

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pearl on July 22, 2014:

my son is on week three of a 12 mo sentence, I just don't get it people of America are going to jail over fines and child support and minor stuff and they open the door to people here illegal its messed up what laws they enforces yet people don't understand why I am so upset , they need to spend 5 min there then they get it. and no I am no problems with ppl from other country's just come here legally.

Steve on July 22, 2014:

Thank you for your kind words. Still a shade over one very long month left and it gets harder by the day. I find myself more and more irritable every day because I hate the courts so much for doing this to me not once but twice when my cheating ex took me there for child support (Because what I was vouluntarily paying monthly wasn't enough in her eyes.) to the tune of $804 a month. I have a good job and I was punished accordingly. Now I find someone whom I am compatible with and love even more than my ex in the beginning and the courts again take something from me. I have no criminal record, I hold an Associate Degree in Computer Network Systems, A security clearance, and am a survivor of the Washington Navy Yard shooting where two of my friends were killed. All my life I have been a good citizen only to be punished. I loathe the courts with all that I am. They have ruined my life. I'm waiting patiently and faithfully for my love to come back to me. Seems like forever.

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on July 03, 2014:

Steve, I'm so sorry what you are going through. I hope this makes your relationship even stronger. She is lucky to have someone like you, waiting for her and taking care of her apartment. Stay strong. And I agree, a lot of people are sent to jail for "silly" crimes compared to what's still going on in the community.

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on July 03, 2014:

Stay strong. I truly hope things get better for you and your son.

Steve on July 01, 2014:

My girlfriend whom I love very much was given a three month sentence. She's only been there a week and it feels like a month. I can't talk to her only but certain times and only for a short bit. I can't hold her or be with her. I feel like a piece of me has died and I'm having a hard time coping with it. We try to support each other while she is in there through letters and the tiny bit of phone time we get. I'm paying her rent so her place will be there when she gets out. I worry night and day about what is happening to her while she is in there. She has been diagnosed with anxiety disorder in the past and I'm afraid it will be much much worse when she finally gets released. It is agonizing and painfully slow. I find myself increasingly agitated and angry and I really hate the twisted in-justice system. America is so obsessed with incarcerating people over dumb stuff that the real criminals are out there molesting kids, killing people, committing rapes and robberies, etc because the jails are full of people who really don't belong there. House arrest, community service, etc for non-violent offenders who might have a shoplifting charge, or got caught with a small amount of marijuana. This is horrible and it's a long way till September 12th. Tears my heart right out and I'm all out of tears. Been crying nightly.

Renee' Moore on June 25, 2014:

My son has been locked up for about 3Months , I feel like I'm in a nightmare he has never been in jail before , I feel bad for him, I cry everyday and night, I barley go to work and when I do go to work I'm crying on my way home from work I'm crying

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on May 26, 2014:

HI katiegirl89. I wish I had all the answers and advice to get rid of your pain. But I don't. If I had the answers, I would give them to myself b/c my loved one has been in jail for about 8 years. It still hurts and never really gets easier. The feelings actually get more confusing. And it starts to feel sort of "normal" that they are in jail. I'm sure you have these feelings with your brother, which I am very sorry to hear about. Just remember, you have to take care of yourself and your son. Your son is your #1 i'm sure, and he depends on you. You have to stay strong and healthy for your son's sake. Having someone go to jail is extremely painful. The only thing we can do is make peace with it.....b/c we never forget

katiegirl89 on May 23, 2014:

I recently had my fiancé put in jail and were waiting to find out how long hes going to get i just don't stop crying this id the second person ive lost my brother got 2 life sentences in 1998 and i feel some days like its harder now than it was in 1998 i don't understand. My son is defiantly my reason to smile and to stop crying but since my fiancé was put in with no idea of when hes getting out im finding it hard for even my son to cheer me up and hes 5 so he don't quite understand he knowd his uncle is in prison cause he visits him once a year in florida and since we moved to florida from Massachusetts we have seen him more since hes only 5 hours away as opposed to 1000+ miles away but losing my fiancé seems harder since now im an adult and when i lost my brother i was a child i think i didn't understand then and it took me a long time to understand and to grieve and just when i am getting how to this happens with the only person besides my son that i no loves me our calls consist of just saying i love you and here in florida most county jails only let you visit via a tv screen your loved one isn't even in the same building its so in personal but yet prisons you get contact visits except death row i just don't get it i need to hug and hold him i sit up all night reading how to get through this any advise would help.. thankyou

tracyattar on March 30, 2014:

Thanks, this has been hard for me and my kids. My boyfriend got 11-14 yrs. This is a long ride

Author Victoria Sheffield from Georgia on February 08, 2014:

My brother is in jail and it hurts very bad so this really helps!

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on January 30, 2014:

HI Elise:

Thank you for taking the time to read my hub. I want to point out to you that your feelings in this situation are not wrong. I strongly believe that there are no right or wrong feelings in any situation. They are your feelings and you are allowed to feel any way you choose. On the other hand, people respond to experiences differently. Your husband feels like every 5 weeks is sufficient for him. And to be honest, if he was closer, your husband might actually visit him more often. There's no way to know for sure. And again, every one acts differently in these situations. If your sister was in jail, would you visit her every 5 weeks or every 8 weeks? And maybe even more frequently? I have heard of other people traveling every weekend to visit their loved ones in jail so 5 weeks does not sound excessive. But again, you are allowed to have your feelings in this situation. I don't think it's selfish of you to ask for him to change it to every 8 weeks. But your husband may not be able to do that right now. For his brother's sanity and for your husband's sanity, every 5 weeks might be what is needed at this time. Maybe you could discuss your thoughts/feelings with him again down the road. Ask him why he needs to see his brother every 5 weeks? The answer may surprise you. Having someone go to jail is like losing them completely........the feelings around it are complex. I sincerely hope that your marriage doesn't crumble because of this. Continue to keep the communication open. If the brother is due to get out of jail soon, I think every 5 weeks is fine. But if his brother is staying in there for many more years to come, the situation should be re-evaluated.

Elise on January 27, 2014:

I have a question/concern....

My husband's brother has been in jail for the past 4 years already. Last year he was moved to a facility which is 4 hours drive each direction; my husband has been going there every 5 weeks "Faithfully".

It's been taking a toll on our marriage and I have asked him to change it to every 8 weeks instead. Am I being selfish by doing that? Is it wrong of me to worry about our arriage? My husband says he wants to see his brother as much as he can, but I am going through a lot of stress because of that. I wish he could just understand that he needs to worry about his marriage MORE than about his brother... It feels somethimes as if his brother committed a crime and WE have to pay for it (in so many words)

I wish my husband would realize that his life is here with his family, more than in jail with his brother, and that he is risking losing his family as well as his brother!!



proteaudakodah on January 02, 2014:

Thanks for the awesome article. I'm 17 and my boyfriend is in jail. Today was the first time I got to see him and it is truly taking an emotional toll on me. All I can do is write him and that sucks too. I hope he is out sometime soon so he can see me graduate from high school. All I can do is hope and pray! Thanks for the positive outlook.

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on December 30, 2013:

that is actually a very good question. From what I know, I don't think there is any type of assistance. But I could be wrong. That's what makes it so hard when our loved ones end up in jail. We need to figure out how to put theie "outside" existence on hold while they are in there. It can be very stressful and tough for the family.

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on December 30, 2013:

I will pray for you, your family, and your brother. You will get through this difficult time stronger than ever.

jaded on November 26, 2013:

hello, does anyone know if there is any kind of rent assistance or anything of the such to help the family that is left behind when one is incarcerated? any help on the matter would be greatly appreciated!

JeninMA on November 06, 2013:

Thank you so much for writing on this topic. My brother was just sentenced to jail time and it is absolutely crushing to my parents and myself. We have no experience with this sort of thing and are struggling to cope with it all. It's awful knowing people see him just as a bad human being when we know he made one bad choice and is forced to pay for it this way. It's nice to hear how many other people are going through the same emotions and trying to deal with the "loss" of our loved onces

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on May 17, 2013:

Thank you!!

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on May 17, 2013:

Hang in there, and keep trying to remain strong for your loved one. I know how hard it is. Hopefully this nightmare will be over for you soon.

Geo on May 01, 2013:

I have a loved one in jail.. I am afraid they are losing hope from ever being released, as the courts keep pushing back their hearing. I keep talking to them to support them to remain positive. It is just killing me when I call and they cry. I wish I could hold and hug them to let them know everything will be alright and all this would be some past nightmare...

CarrieRoseCottage on March 09, 2013:

Voted up.....useful and interesting. Thank you.

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on March 07, 2013:

Thank you!

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on March 07, 2013:

Thank you!

Stephanie Launiu from Hawai'i on February 28, 2013:

Thank you for writing this hub! I know from experience that prison is hell and the whole justice system needs revamping. Your hub was very needed and sensitive to the whole issue. God bless those behind bars. Aloha, Stephanie / Voted up, useful, interesting.

Author Victoria Sheffield from Georgia on February 25, 2013:

This is wonderful. I wish I had run across then when my brother was faced with jail time!!

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on February 11, 2013:

Thank you for the kind reply! Hang in there!

Nakia Deon on February 10, 2013:

Thank you so much for this. My son is in jail right now and it is torture. Nevertheless, I know it is a nightmare for him more than it is for the people who love him on the outside of those prison walls.

You give good tips that are obviously coming from a place of experience.

Once again...thank you.

iguidenetwork from Austin, TX on January 24, 2013:

This is quite unusual topic for a hub... I feel that this is worse than having a loved one who has just died. You know that your loved ones are alive but they can't be with you, and that's what it makes very painful.

Our prayers and good wishes for you. :)

Martin10 on January 11, 2013:

Ally, you are correct.

I am in a spiritual warfare, where thoughts are things and words are worst I could share more with you about this.

So that these little demons don't use this information, prayer is the answer.

It would be great to see my akashic records to see why I wrote these people into my life.

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on January 11, 2013:

HI Martin: yes, it may be possible that your wife needs psychiatric help. Me being a therapist, I have heard similar stories as your own. The initial shock of having someone you love go to jail can last quite a while. This must be really hard for your wife, so communicate to her your understanding and support. However, your wife needs to also understand that you two need each other. Her going away every single weekend for the next 10 years does sound a little excessive to me. I'm worried that the relationship you two have with each other will start to fall by the wayside and become less of a priority for her. I'm thinking maybe you have also felt this way. You need to also communicate this to her. Let her know that you need her as well, and that you miss her. Maybe you two can come to a resolution of an arrangement that works for both of you. I'm sure this is putting a ding on your financial well-being as well. I wish you all the best of luck!

Martin10 on January 06, 2013:

My stepson was moved to a federal prison and my wife wants to visit him on Saturday and Sunday each weekend for the next 8.5. - 10 years.

We live 3.5 hours away from this facility, so she leaves on Saturday stays at a hotel overnight and returns Sunday evening. He is 26 years old and in a minimum security location with a lot of freedom. He has only been in for nearly 3 weeks. Before he was moved to that location she visited him Wednesday and Saturday when we lived 71 miles away from that jail. Is this excessive? Does she need psychiatric help?

anna on December 17, 2012:

my dad went to jail,he is not going to get out intell 2016 i think.its hard without him i to much on my mind i miss him so much.i need my dad to br there in ruff times ,and this is one of those times i will always love u daddy no matter what happen.see u soon.

nedder on November 26, 2012:

Thanks SO much!!! My brother just got put in jail - and it's like he died or something!!!! Spend every moment worrying about him and his well being, and trying to imagine what he will do or where he will go when he gets out. Feel so lost and so sad for him!!!

nicole on August 02, 2012:

i fell like i all alone and i know my man fells the same way in there i miss and love with all my heart he just went to jail march 10 /2012 and got 3 years i don't know what to do half of the time i can't talk to him yet and i fell like im going crazy with out him with me

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on June 23, 2012:

Thank you paperlake! I'm very sorry about your brother. I hope everything works out for him and the rest of your family. The sad thing is that once someone is in jail they fail to treat that person like a human being.....they are just a number now. Something needs to change!!!!

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on June 23, 2012:

Thank you very much!

Liz from atop a unicorn, vanquishing evildoers on June 21, 2012:

Thanks so much for this. My brother was in jail for 3 years, and has been finally transferred to an out-of-state prison only recently. Whereas before we'd only have to drive approximately 40 minutes to arrive at his jail, it's going to take us over 6 hours to reach our destination in addition to all the ludicrous red tape prisons entail. This has already been enough of a nightmare, and now our family is barely going to have time to visit him! The prison system really needs to practice being more compassionate and convenient for the families of inmates on where they're being transferred. Great article once again; voted up and "useful". =]

WhydThatHappen on June 20, 2012:

Well worth reading, great support here

Melody Collins from United States on June 10, 2012:

This is a great article. It is so difficult when someone you love goes to jail. You still love that person, yet so many people will judge. Yet all you care about is the well being of that person. Thanks for addressing this!

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on May 25, 2012:

That is so sad, that you feel that way. Have hope! Continue to support your loved one! I hope everything stays positive for you!

itsme on May 24, 2012:

I cannot stop grieving, i feel like my loved one will have no soul or life left in him once released if released

Ally Jean (author) from Boston, MA on May 22, 2012:

Completely agree with you, rustyw. Thanks for reading my hub....

Rustyw on May 22, 2012:

I have spent some rime there, and am very active in combatting the crooked aspects of our system. Now, in Pennsylvania, a defendant must either retain an attorney, or rely upon an unpaid, public-defender. So, if representation should be equal before the courts, why is there such a drastic difference between the quality of the two representatives? As with everything else, we get what we "pay for".

Thank you...

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