How To Help A Family Member Who Has Just Been Released From Prison

Release from imprisonment is the start of another chapter in an ex-convict’s life. Unfortunately, it’s not a live- happily-ever-after phase but one that is burdened with challenges. Both the ex-con and other members of the family have to adjust to each other’s presence in order to preserve relationships and harmony within the home.

Individuals who have spent time in jail undergo several behavioral changes not of their own choice but as a result of the environment they were forced to live in. As a parent, it is your obligation to educate the children about the potential changes in behavior and perspective of the former felon who may be your spouse or one of your children. Failure to adapt to shifts in the home structure will strain relationships and may have possible violent consequences. Further, a person released from prison needs to feel accepted in his own family, so develop compassion and understanding in yourself and your children for the ex-felon.


Here are common behavioral changes you have to watch out for and learn to handle effectively, to help the ex-prisoner relate peacefully with the family members and integrate himself slowly to as near normal a life as he can have.

Social Isolation

Withdrawal from everyone, even one’s own family, is common in ex-prisoners. The factors that lead to a self-imposed isolation include being inconspicuous while in prison to avoid attracting attention from other inmates and extremely quiet desperation that he cannot return to the pre-prison life he had. He has limited prospects of a good job, entry into schools, renting a house, parenting rights and even a driver’s license.

Suicidal Tendencies

Because a conviction of felony brings many restrictions to the ex-felon, even after his prison term, his sense of worth and self-esteem takes a deep dive. Losing all hope for a normal life, many former prisoners entertain thoughts of suicide.

In the period of imprisonment, your loved one is forced into the company of hardened prisoners, murderers, rapists and other criminals. Such an environment necessitates cultivating habits that are essential to survival. Hence, he creates certain patterns of feeling, thinking and acting that he brings with him upon release. According to Suhre Law & Associates, a law firm in Columbus, even a simple DUI charge can become a felony if there are aggravating circumstances, such as a person injured or property damaged. A person convicted of a felony spends a minimum of one year in jail, even if it was a nonviolent crime. It takes an abundance of kindness, patience and sympathy to deal with a loved one who has just been out of incarceration.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Attacks

Exposure to a frightening situation that endangers the life of a prisoner brings about post traumatic stress disorder even after the ordeal is over. PTSD and panic attacks manifest as flashbacks with physical symptoms of sweating and increase in heart rate, nightmares, avoid places and things that remind him of his experience, difficulty sleeping and angry outbursts that may be violent.

Inability to Make His Own Decisions

The time inside a correctional agency requires all prisoners to adhere strictly to the rules and allowed behavior that the institution imposes. The limits and boundaries are clear cut and violation carries severe penalties. Even after release, the former convict continues his passive compliance. The deprivation of decision-making and self-expression persists and he becomes dependent on others to make decisions for him.

Suspicious nature, distrust and hypervigilance

Being in prison teaches a person to be distrustful and suspicious of others, and to always be alert for signs of threat. The stakes are high if one is careless. To protect himself, the prisoner creates an outward appearance of toughness to avoid being exploited for his seeming weakness. In the home, a person released from prison continues his threatening personality image that may anger the other family members.