Welcome to our new weekly series, Friday Q&A. Each week our attorneys will respond to a question selected from the many received by direct and online submission. Have a question you want answered or topic you want to hear more about? Submit your suggestions to us by tweeting @TLOBJ or sending a message to our Facebook Page.
QUESTION: My husband was convicted at trial and sentenced to five years in prison. How can I continue to be there for him once he is in prison?
ANSWER: Once your husband has been sentenced to a prison term, he will be sent to the Correction Reception Center where he will stay for a period of time before receiving a “home institution,” or where he will be housed for the term of his sentence. You can read more about the offender intake process here: Offender Reception Processing.
The Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction website offers general information including: the rules and regulations for visiting offenders in person; the mailing address and mail service details; information about phone access; and information about providing financial assistance.
Information specific to your husband’s home institution can be found here: Field Operations. By selecting your husband’s institution from the map or list, you will receive more information about the facility, including the programs offered for inmates and their families at that location and specific rules about visitation, mail, phone service, and commissary.
If you plan to visit your husband in person, be sure to read the rules for visitation at least week before you plan to go. Each prison has rules about what days and times inmates can visit and what you can wear to visit with your husband, as well as what kinds of things you can bring into the building with you. Each prison requires documentation establishing a biological relationship in order for a minor child to visit. Some institutions require you to schedule the visit in advance and may penalize your loved-one if you miss the visit or are too late arriving. Planning ahead is the key to a successful prison visit.
In person visits and snail mail are not the only way to stay in touch – you can also take advantage of the online system JPAY. Your JPAY account is free to set up, but many of the services involve a fee. For example, for a small fee (about what a postage stamps costs now days) you can send email-like messages to your husband at his institution. JPAY also offers video chat and picture messaging for a fee at eligible institutions in Ohio as well as access to funds deposit.
No matter what method of communication – in person, mail, phone, or JPAY – you need to know your husband’s Ohio Inmate Number because it is part of his “address.” You can look up your husband’s inmate number on the Ohio Department of Corrections website, here: Offender Search.
In addition to staying in touch, you can start making plans for your husband’s return before he is released.
The Ohio Ex-Offender Reentry Coalition provides valuable resources to former inmates and their families as well as a wealth of general information about living with a conviction after prison. Check out the resources available on the reentry coalition website here: Ohio Ex-Offender Reentry Coalition Links & Resources.
Another great web-based resource is the National Helping Individuals with criminal records Re-Enter through Employment Network (HIRE), a project of the Legal Action Center. The HIRE website features an Ohio-specific resource page with online and in-person resources – check it out here: HIRE Ohio.
Everything from how you can best support your husband, to chat boards, to in-person support groups are available today to help you and your husband during the period of incarceration and after he has been released. Some examples of support networks include Prisontalk.com and Daily Strength.org Families of Prisoners Support Group.
On a final note, consider meeting with an attorney who specializes in post-conviction work, like appeals, applications for post-conviction relief, and habeas corpus, to see if there are any further legal options for your husband’s case.