Incarceration refers to the state of being confined in prison or jail. When it involves juveniles, it means that individuals under the age of 18 are held in detention centers due to legal issues. These include theft, drug-related offenses, violent crimes, vandalism, truancy (i.e., illegally staying away from school without permission or a valid reason), or probation violations.

Despite being in detention, juveniles still need their parents' support. They’re in a critical stage of development, requiring guidance and emotional backing. Parental involvement, in particular, can significantly impact their rehabilitation process, helping them reintegrate into society more effectively upon release. Thus, maintaining a supportive relationship is crucial.

This article outlines five key ways parents can support their incarcerated juveniles.

Regular Communication

Regular communication is essential for maintaining a connection with your incarcerated child. It helps them feel supported and less isolated, which is crucial for their mental well-being. Regular contact reassures the juvenile that they’re not forgotten and still part of the family, which can motivate good behavior and rehabilitation.

To maintain regular communication, parents should schedule consistent phone calls, video chats, or in-person visits if possible. Before the call or meeting, think of positive topics to uplift your child's spirits and encourage them to share their thoughts and feelings openly. Use open-ended questions to encourage your child to talk more, such as asking, "How are you feeling today?" or "What was the best part of your week?." 

Writing letters can also be a powerful way not only to stay connected but also to proactively address issues. For example, for victims of institutional abuse, maintaining regular correspondence can provide an outlet to share their experiences and seek support. Additionally, letters can serve as documentation of any mistreatment, which can be used to advocate for better conditions and appropriate action.

Maintaining regular communication can be challenging due to institutional restrictions, costs, and the emotional toll it may take on both the parent and child. Overcoming these challenges requires persistence and resourcefulness. Parents can seek support from community organizations that help families of incarcerated individuals find ways to manage costs, such as using affordable phone plans or taking advantage of visitation programmes.

Legal Support

Providing legal support is another crucial way parents can protect their incarcerated juveniles. Navigating the legal system can be complex, especially for young individuals who may not fully understand their rights or the proceedings against them. Legal support ensures that their rights are protected and that they receive fair treatment.

To provide effective legal support, parents should consider hiring a qualified lawyer experienced in juvenile cases. Regularly consulting with the legal representative can help parents stay informed about their child's case and any new developments. Additionally, parents should educate themselves on the juvenile justice system to better understand the process and advocate for their children effectively.

Potential challenges include the high cost of legal fees and difficulty finding a lawyer with specific experience in juvenile cases. To address these challenges, parents can look for pro bono legal services or seek assistance from legal aid organizations. It’s also helpful to join support groups for families of incarcerated juveniles, where they can share resources and advice.

Educational Assistance

Educational assistance is vital for incarcerated juveniles, as it ensures they continue their education and don’t fall behind. Education provides a sense of normalcy and helps juveniles prepare for a better future once they are released. It also significantly reduces recidivism (i.e., the tendency to re-offend and return to criminal behavior after being released from custody). 

Parents can support their child's education by collaborating with the detention center's educational staff to understand the available resources and programmes. They can also provide additional educational materials, such as books and online resources, and encourage their child to participate in educational activities. Staying involved in their child's education shows the juvenile that their parents care about their future and success.

However, providing educational assistance may lead to limited resources within the detention center and potential learning gaps due to disrupted education. To overcome these challenges, parents can advocate for better educational programmes within the facility and seek external tutoring services if allowed. Additionally, parents should work closely with teachers to identify and address any learning difficulties their child may face.

Preparing for Re-entry

Re-entry into society refers to the process of reintegrating into the community after being released from a detention center. Parents must carefully and appropriately prepare for this, as successful reintegration reduces the likelihood of recidivism and helps juveniles build a positive future. 

To prepare for re-entry, parents should start planning well before their child's release. This includes discussing post-release plans, such as education, employment, and living arrangements. Parents should also work on rebuilding family relationships and establishing a supportive home environment. 

Potential challenges include the stigma associated with incarceration and the juvenile's potential difficulty in adjusting to life outside the detention center. To address these challenges, parents should provide ongoing support, encourage their child to participate in reintegration programmes and advocate for their child's acceptance within the community.

Final Thoughts

Supporting an incarcerated juvenile requires dedication, patience, and a proactive approach. It's also highly recommended that you seek legal advice to navigate any complex issues that may arise. Despite the aforementioned challenges, continuous parental involvement and support can make a significant difference in the lives of incarcerated juveniles.