Common Hurdles to Navigating the Court System
1. Many people do not understand the process at all. I did not know that I would not have the ability to see my loved one until I made application for visiting.
2. Many people do not know the difference between arraignment, entering a plea, and sentencing, and would have liked a place to go to understand the court process step by step.
3. The judicial system is complicated and can be biased and categorize the inmate and family. The family is the innocent bystander affected by the problem, and many times feels as though they are guilty as well.
4. Most of the people you talk to CANNOT give legal advice, cannot make assumptions or predict what will happen in the case, or give information that is considered confidential.
5. Having no resource for legal advice.
10 Ways to Help Navigate the Court System
1. Be prayed up.
2. KEEP YOUR PAPERWORK, don’t lose numbers. Keep a calendar with every date on it marked. Stay organized with the different numbers that they assign to the cases, as well as the dates of the offense, because these are how the charges will be referenced in court or during conversation.
3. Arrive on time, bring lots of change for the meter, pack a snack and wear comfortable but appropriate clothes. Conduct yourself with respect towards the court system. Pay attention to all courtroom rules, your actions will reflect upon your family member that is facing sentencing.
4. Don’t bring your children — just don’t.
5. Take someone you trust and love to the sentencing with you: you will hear things that will hurt and details of the crime. Later you may not remember things the judge said or conditions.
6. Public Defenders are not always willing to communicate with family. You must be persistent but respectful to get any information. If they do not answer phone calls, it helps to be
outside the courtroom early and taking that opportunity to approach them: be polite, and ask to talk with them. Try to be short and to the point, and they are more willing to talk with you again.
7. Be informed despite obstacles; you have a right to know about your loved one. Finding the right source for information requires asking questions. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Find the right person in the system to express concerns and look for answers.
8. BE POLITE. Your actions and how you conduct yourself are going to reflect on your whole case. Be conscious of how the judge may perceive what you’re saying, asking, or doing and how that may reflect on your loved one’s situation.
9. No two people are exactly alike, yet for the most part there are a lot of similarities. Listen to what everyone went through, but use your critical thinking skills to realize that there is usually more to the picture than the other person is able to articulate.
10. Try to write down what you would like to say to the judge ahead of time and practice.
Hardest Hurdles Experienced During the Holidays
1. Christmas Eve night and Christmas morning after you have gotten home from the family or friends’ get together, and the kids are in bed, and you’re doing it all solo.
2. Taking selfies of you and your kids because there isn’t any one to swap taking pictures with.
3. Not being able to look over at someone and exchange knowing smiles with them as you witness your child’s reaction when they open up their favorite toy.
4. Time spent with family and/or friends you haven’t seen in a long time who want to rehash all the horrible details of what happened, or what’s happening to your loved one.
5. The feeling of hopelessness due to a broken family and broken dreams.
6. A broken heart causing such an intense reaction that you may feel your life has been completely stripped of meaning, and you are therefore unable to experience the joy of the holiday, not to mention your job, hobbies, and friends.
7. Watching families spend the holidays together as you go home alone.
10 Ways that Help Families Get Through the Holidays
1. Give yourself permission to have a good time. It’s acceptable and necessary for you to relax and enjoy yourself even though your loved one is not there to enjoy the festivities. Be present in the moment.
2. Cuddle with your children as much as possible.
3. Write a list of what you’re thankful for.
4. Take time out to take care of yourself by doing little things that benefit yourself spiritually, emotionally, and physically.
5. Stock up on tea, coffee, ice cream, bubble bath, good books, journals, whatever makes you happy — and utilize them.
6. Reevaluate family traditions that previously included your loved one, avoiding the same things that you have always done which only highlights their absence. Consider developing some new holiday traditions together.
7. Crying is okay. Tears and sadness do not have to ruin the entire holiday for you. Allow your tears and emotions to come
and go throughout the whole day if necessary because the tears and emotions you do not express will be the ones that are destructive to you.
8. It’s OK to be ANGRY and FRUSTRATED with the person that is gone. You are validated in these emotions. It’s OK to be compassionate or feel guilty that they’re in prison and you’re not. You are allowed whatever emotions you may have, contrary to what the incarcerated person, your parent, best friend, or significant other might say.
9. If you feel like your emotions are too much, do not be embarrassed to seek professional counseling. Leaning on friends and family is a great comfort, but sometimes it is not quite enough to get you through.
10. For many, faith and spiritual beliefs are a source of strength and comfort every day, especially during difficult times. Reach out to your faith counselor, spiritual community, or anyone that you feel comfortable talking with about your beliefs to support and console you.
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