Families around a warm fire, exchanging gifts and spending time with the people they love most. This is what comes to mind when we think of the holiday season. For prisoners and their loved ones, the holiday season is a contrasting reality as the festivities bring home the gravity of their situation and loneliness is prevalent.
At this time of year, the rate of suicide and depression is at its peak. Many prisoners are still spending 23 hours per day in their cells since the COVID-19 pandemic. Restrictions on letters, cards and presents have been put in place because of the drug contamination risk, separating the prisoner further from their support network. For more information click here.
Difficulties of in-person visitation
For the loved ones of people in prison, the feeling of separation is more present during the holiday season. During the holiday season, in-person visits are reduced due to limited staff coverage. Even when available, visitation does not always resolve this issue as many families and loved ones of prisoners find it an added stress. Visiting a loved one in prison can be a daunting and upsetting experience, especially for children.
“Separated from their parents, the financial and emotional impact of having a family member in prison takes its toll on the whole family.”The Press and Journal, 2021
Digital solutions improve connectivity
Technological advances in prisons make significant steps to solve this issue. There are solutions available that facilitate digital communications in prisons. These digital solutions give prisoners, and their support network, a chance to connect through video and messaging calls that alleviate the sense of isolation and solitude. This reduces the disruption of in-person visitation over the holiday season by letting people connect remotely.
For prisoners, to be able to video call and message their support network during a difficult time of year will improve their well-being and connectivity. Especially for parents, allowing them an opportunity to watch their child unwrap a present could make all the difference. Prisoners do not cease to be humans once in prison, paying debts to society should not mean being excluded entirely. Keeping close connections to supportive family links is crucial for improving chances of successful re-entry back into society.
The holiday season, for some, can look very different from the commercialised representation and digital solutions can bring positive changes for people in prison and the families left behind.