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Since the day I was incarcerated, it’s been a daily struggle to stay in touch with loved ones, get them to actually correspond with me in the “old style,” as they call it, and get them to understand how it really is in prison. Prison is made to punish and rehabilitate individuals, not to keep inmates in contact with family and friends. But there is a way to keep them by your side.

Here are the things to do on a consistent basis:

  1. Write or call the person who family members converge around and get this person to pass messages to specific members by word of mouth or letter.
  2. Make sure to continually update family members’ addresses and phone numbers by occasionally inquiring if they still live at that address.
  3. Don’t always talk or write about negative or depressing situations in prison. Try to focus on goal orientated, present day conversations. There’s a big difference between someone going through tough times emotionally and just doing hard time because it’s prison. Remember this.
  4. Don’t always ask for money or packages. Try to negotiate how much a loved one can afford and how often or on what specific day of each month.
  5. Try to give them incentive to write by occasionally sending family members postage stamps and paper.
  6. Lastly, always tell them you love them, no matter what you’re going through.

This is how I keep connected with my family and friends on the streets.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Global Forum Online has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Shariff Taylor is an African-American transgender writer who is incarcerated in California. Shariff is from Newark, N.J., and is an activist for LGBTQ rights in and out of prison. They identify as gender-fluid. Shariff has been published in the American Prison Writing Archive, a partner of the Global Forum Online.