Adopt – to take by choice into a relationship.
- take up
Incarceration carries with it a parade of emotions, including shock, fear, helplessness, shame, anger, frustration, anguish, and depression.
Surviving incarceration is a daily battle. Imagine trying to cope, with little to no support from the outside. The sad truth is that many inmates are not fortunate enough to have friends or family to provide this much-needed support. Indigent inmates face extreme challenges that limit their chances for success both during and after their incarceration.
Why should anyone care?
- Inmates are human. There are multiple reasons people end up incarcerated. According to the BOP, 70% of inmates are serving time for non-violent offenses, and roughly half for drug offenses. It would not be an exaggeration to say that any one of us could be charged with a crime. Who among us has never been guilty of being distracted while driving, but lucky enough not to have caused an accident that resulted in injury?
- Some inmates are innocent. According to The Innocence Project, the few studies that have been done estimate that between 2.3% and 5% of all prisoners in the U.S. are innocent. If just 1% of those prisoners are innocent, that would mean that more than 20,000 innocent people are in prison. Even more alarming, for every ten people executed in this country, one innocent person has been exonerated.
- Even (especially) people guilty of crimes deserve compassion and mercy. “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done,” Bryan Stevenson.
- Most inmates in jails are pre-trial detainees, who have not been convicted of anything. The U.S. has the largest pretrial detention population in the world, with 487,000 (as of 2013). Of those, 20 percent (or 97,400 human beings) eventually had their case dismissed or were acquitted. R. Aborn and A. Cannon (Winter 2013). Prisons: In Jail But Not Sentenced, Americas Quarterly.
- 95% of inmates will be released. “Family involvement has a positive relationship to recidivism rates. Studies have consistently found that prisoners who maintain close contact with their family members while incarcerated have better post-release outcomes and lower recidivism rates. These findings represent a body of research stretching back over 40 years.” Friedmann, A. (2015, April 15) Lowering Recidivism Through Family Communication Prison Legal News.
Adopting an inmate can include any or all of the following:
- exchanging letters
- putting money on his or her “books,” to enable the purchase of items not available otherwise, such as coffee or vitamins, or for inmates in facilities without air conditioning, a fan for the hot summer months
- sending books
- receiving phone calls
- collecting personal property for storage
- being a legal advocate (i.e., providing legal research)
Offering support to inmates during their incarceration increases their odds of living productive lives after release, which in turn benefits the community.