What To Do If Your Incarcerated Loved Ones Is Being Abused In Prison

As we’ve previously discussed on Pigeonly’s blog, it’s not exactly uncommon for correctional officers and other prison personnel to overstep their bounds – and violate their prisoners’ rights in the process.

Unfortunately, when this abuse occurs, inmates and their loved ones often feel utterly powerless – causing them to stay silent instead of coming forward and risking further abuse. Of course, staying silent only gives more power to the guards responsible for the abuse in the first place.

Still, it’s certainly difficult for a loved one to report suspected abuse to the authorities, since they may not know exactly how to go about doing so. And, of course, it’s difficult to trust “the authorities,” since the abuse their loved one is experiencing is being committed by an authority figure in the first place.

With all this being said, it’s essential that you know exactly what to do if you suspect your loved one’s rights are being violated by the very people who are supposed to be protecting them. In this article, we’ll guide you through the process of reporting such abuse in order to get your loved one the protection they deserve.

The Prevalence of Abuse in the US Prison System

Before we get into exactly what you can do to help your incarcerated loved one, we need to make a few things clear.

First things first: you – and your loved one – are not alone. As we mentioned earlier, abuse by prison guards and other personnel is not uncommon by any stretch.

A few stats:

Sadly, with regard to that last statistic, this number is five times higher than the “official” statistic. In other words, most cases of sexual abuse (and other such abuse) by prison guards goes largely unreported by victims and their families.


The second thing we need to point out is that is that “abuse” isn’t always as obvious or severe as physical or sexual assault. Discrimination, verbal abuse, and negligence are not only mentally and emotionally damaging, but can also put an inmate’s physical health in danger, as well.

While you shouldn’t exactly expect your loved one’s prison experience to be comfortable or anything like that, you definitely want to ensure their lives aren’t being put in danger by correctional officers or other prison faculty members.

So, let’s get into what you can do to ensure the safety of your incarcerated loved one throughout the remainder of their prison sentence.

What to Do If Your Loved One is Being Abused in Prison

If you suspect an imprisoned loved one is being abused, or that their rights are being violated in any way, you need to take immediate action.

Here, we’ll explain the process you’ll need to go through to be sure that the abuse of your loved one ceases immediately, and that the person (or people) responsible for the abuse face the consequences of their actions.

Alleviate Your Loved One’s Worries

As we mentioned earlier, inmate abuse by prison guards often goes unreported for a variety of reasons:

  • Prisoners are sometimes ashamed or embarrassed to admit the abuse
  • They feel like no one will believe them
  • They think the guard or guards will retaliate for reporting the abuse

So, if you even suspect a loved one is being abused in prison, you’ll need to make them understand that you definitely believe them, and are willing to do whatever it takes to keep them safe throughout their sentence.

But let’s back up a little. Your loved one might not even tell you they’re being abused in the first place – which means you need to be extra perceptive to some of the warning signs of such abuse.

Aside from the obvious signs of abuse (such as bruises, cuts, and other physical evidence), you also want to pay attention to possible changes in their behavior, communications, and overall demeanor. For example, when visiting your loved one, you might notice that they’re less talkative than usual, or are speaking extra carefully around a specific guard. Many of these warning signs will probably be very subtle, so it’s important that you pay extra close attention to your loved one whenever you get the chance to speak with them.

If you suspect a loved one is being abused – or if they tell you straight out – the most important thing to do is let them know you hear them, you believe them, and you’re going to help them. While it may be a bit difficult to communicate all of this verbally (as you and your loved one likely won’t want to say too much while others are present), try to do as much as you can to let them know you’re going to take action right away.

Remember the Details

At this stage, it’s vital that your loved one retains as much information about the abuse as possible.

Now, as we’ve said, we don’t advise you to speak freely with your loved one about the abuse they’ve suffered, for a variety of reasons. Unfortunately, your loved one probably won’t want to commit any accusations to writing at the current time, as their possessions are always subject to search and seizure while incarcerated.

While it may be difficult for them to do, tell your loved one to try and keep a running record of as many details regarding the abuse as they can, including:

  • Dates and the approximate time at which the abuse occurred
  • The name and physical description of the perpetrator
  • The location of the incident(s)
  • A specific description of the exact abuse that occurred
  • The names and descriptions of any potential witnesses (both inmates and personnel)

Additionally, your loved one will want to keep track of any physical evidence of the abuse that may fade over time (such as bruising, scarring, etc.). While they probably won’t be able to maintain this evidence over time, it’s certainly information their attorney will want to keep track of.

Speaking of attorneys…

Contact an Attorney

Immediately after you’ve discovered (or even suspected) that your loved one is facing some kind of abuse from prison personnel, you need to contact an attorney.

Make sure that the lawyer (or lawyers) you contact specializes in civil rights violations, as they’ll have a better idea of how to go about solving your loved one’s problem.

Often, attorneys will provide a basic consultation free of charge, allowing you and your loved one to plead your case without having to spend a small fortune on legal fees. You can also contact the ACLU, which will help connect you to an affordable attorney who will stop at nothing to ensure not only that your loved one’s abuse ceases immediately, but also that they receive compensation for being subjected to such horrible treatment.

Now, just as your loved one’s communications with their attorney were privileged during their initial arrest, trial, and other proceedings, so will any communications between a lawyer regarding these violations of civil rights.

Best case scenario, here, is that the attorney you contacted sets up a face-to-face meeting with your loved one, where they’ll be free to talk about the abuse without the fear of prison personnel eavesdropping.

However, if an attorney isn’t immediately available to meet with your loved one, you’ll at the very least want to make sure your loved one writes to them via privileged mail as soon as possible. In the same way that their meeting with an attorney must be kept private, any written communication between your loved one and their attorney must also be kept away from prying eyes.

When your loved one writes this letter, they must make it incredibly clear that the letter is being sent to their attorney. They can do this by including the following on the envelope of the letter being sent:

  • The attorney’s full name
  • Their title
  • Notification that the letter in question is “legal mail, to be opened in front of inmate only”


(Note: While prison personnel can open the envelope in front of the inmate to check for contraband, they cannot read the contents of the letter.)

Be Supportive – But Cautious

After you’ve facilitated the initial contact between your loved one and their attorney, your best bet is to let the attorney handle everything from that moment on.

Still, you’ll want to continue showing support for your loved one as they go through the potential litigation to follow. While you shouldn’t discuss anything related to their civil complaint when contacting them, you definitely want to be there for them as much as you can, and try to get their mind off of everything whenever you get the chance to speak with them.

Pigeonly can help you stay in touch with your incarcerated loved one in a variety of ways, allowing you to continue playing a supporting role in your friend or family member’s life as they deal with such a traumatic experience.


Let us know what you think

Let us know what you think

16 thoughts on “What To Do If Your Incarcerated Loved Ones Is Being Abused In Prison

  1. S. King says:

    My son is being mistreated at Pender correctional because of something an inmate told a guard or guards he has been in the hole for 50 days and other inmates have made threats to officers at the prison and put in the hole for 2 or 3 days and put back on the yard because they are the officers snitches. My son has never verbally made threats to any officer at Pender correctional in Burgaw NC. I need someone to contact me I want my son to get some help for being mistreated by staff and officers at this prison. I have written the suprintendant there and have gotten no response. I have no other choice now but to contact the new media to see if my son is doing well or if he is almost dead from mistreatment of officers at the prison.

  2. T.Robinson says:

    My son is incarcerated and I need help he is being abused by the inmates and correctional officers and I don’t know what to do I am scared for his life please can someone help me.

  3. Dru says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that! My son is going through abuse by the gaurds, feel free to email me if you need to talk..

  4. JEL says:

    I am so sorry you are going through this. I, too, have a son in prison that has been jumped by gang members on three different occasions. He made the mistake of giving a statement and that information was given to the assailant. He is now a bigger target than before. You can’t go to the D.O.C because they protect their own and will make it worse for the victim. I learned that the hard way, too. Possibly talk to a Civil Rights Attorney. That is my next move. May God protect your child and you. ??

  5. Peggy Jesshope says:

    As my son is in prison he has never really committed a violent crime or really any crimes but I can’t get into that at this moment as I tried to contact civil rights lawyer I can’t get ahold of anybody my son was beaten up by two officers at Willard Drug Treatment Center in New York on January 22nd 2018 he was in Willard drug treatment center to guards had beaten him up because he would not take off his PT’s outside and stripped down to his boxer shorts in the snow he said he wasn’t feeling well they didn’t like that so they beat him up they took him to a nearby hospital eventually and then through man Five Points Correctional Facility for about 4 weeks they kept him in Solitaire for 7 days they had to let him out he had no ticket spending and that was on June 20th all the wayto June I believe 11th 2018 I requested and he also requested not to be sent back to Willard drug treatment center after his four weeks and five points they sent him back to Willard drug treatment center and this time there were more than 7 guards that beat him up severely we put in a request for his medical and his pictures and they gave me a letter back stating that they lost everything or has been misplaced so then then again they sent him back to Five Points where he’s been for the last 6 or 7 months and now suddenly he’s got a ticket he’s been in Solitaire that whole time they will not tell me what that ticket is but I believe that ticket is about that what happened in Willard I also have another person that was in Willard I have a statement from him they also threw him out of Willard and put him in Five Points because of the statement now they transferred him to albinia New York until July third I believe it is and I believe that’s what the ticket is for I don’t know how he can have a ticket when he is been solitaire all this time it has been on the investigation and I believe all of it is just a fraud not I believe I know it is I have all the letters and statements from my son and I have no help and my son has to be punished for something that they done and now they are sitting on their jobs not worrying about a thing I need help please this is a mother desperate need as I am in South Carolina my son is a New York I just came from New York to go visit my son the day I went to visit him they transferred him so I never got to see him then you I was on my way please help sincerely Peggy jesshope

  6. Nancy Robinson says:

    My son was order to be jumped by 5 inmates at Ventress Correctional Facility by a guard I have the name of the guard I have tried to contact the Warden all I get is a Voicemail and no response to my messages. Now I fear he is in more danger I have tried the ACLU that went no where I have no idea how to contact these people I need help now I am so scared please anyone help me!!!

  7. Maria says:

    Hi nancy sorry to hear about your son. You can file a complain against the guard to internal affairs they will investigate the guard and use any conduct on him that they see fit.

  8. Mary says:

    My husband is incarcerated at the moment as well and he has been staying out of trouble until his cell mate did something and the guards blamed that it was my husband’s fault so now after 60 days in solitary and his cell mate was only in solitary for 1 day. I’ve called to speak to someone yet they reply with ” there isn’t anyone in charge of a high rank working ” and that’s because I’ve called day in and day out and I’m still waiting for my reply or a call back or something and just this week my husband wrote saying they wanted to put him in population with a gang he has nothing to do with and on his letter he mention he spoke to the warden about this happening yet the warden seems to ignore the fact that he don’t feel that they should put him in population with people who have already made threats to hurt him as soon as he steps foot in the cell . Like always I’ve called but I still haven’t heard or gotten a hold of anyone and sad to say that i have to read it from a letter my husband sends so yes it has me worried because on his letter he mentioned ” save this letter so if anything were to happen to me ” I don’t want them to wait until the last minute and something happen when it could have been stopped unlike with my cousin that they would ignore as well and then they found him hanged in his cell and we weren’t told until months later . I just want numbers to speak to someone who can and will handle this matter .

  9. Chasity Fowler says:

    Make a police report, and call the investigator at the prison. My husband has been threaten by officers so many times and i have to call down there everyday. I talk to EVERYBODY and let them know. Even made police reports, talked to internal affairs, and called the warden everyday. I hate hear you are going through something like this. They need to take better of prisoner’s, they have family who loves them also. Good luck though hun.

  10. Babygirl says:

    My fiance has been in the hole for a month and a half and just a couple days before he is ready to get out, they give him more time for nothing. He had PTSD, and a TBI, and at this point I believe they are just trying to push his buttons so he freaks out, so they can keep him in there longer. They are toying with him. I write to him all the time, telling him to keep his head held high and don’t let them win, don’t let them get the better of you. I want to get justice for him, but who can you really believe or really trust to help. Calling the jail to complain will just make matters worse, because everyone that works there is shady. Please help

  11. Rhonda says:

    My son is in administrative custoday and was severely beatin up and sent to a local hospital in somerset pa and he faring for his life I have called ACLU they can’t hwlp me I have email the superintendent she won’t help me what do I do never before my son dies please help me

  12. Cheryl says:

    My inmate has been abused at Southern Ohio Correctional, his mother & I have contacted the prison, the higher up offices in Columbus, state highway patrol, etc. and nothing has been done. He called his mother 3 times Saturday saying they were outside his cell with ropes taunting him, they were going to kill him. Yesterday we found out he is in the infirmary there and no one will tell his mother why. When I called they could not give me info. but said they were calling his mother back, his exact words is “we are working on it” Prayers please.

  13. kimberly D duncan says:

    My son was handcuff and Shackled and beaten by 5 guards in Telford unit new Boston tx he had a guard “trip” him and he fell to the ground and 2 guard on his back shoving there fingers in his eyes and slam his head in the floor he begged for medical for days when I went and saw him 3 days later I made a point to bring other guards over to see his injuries I had to call my congressman to get him medical I called the ombudsman office and filed a complaint and all I get is the run around for over a month the guards have told my son they are going to hide the evidence and starve him to death what can I do to help my son please someone help me

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