It’s 3:00 am on New Year’s Day. You’re fast asleep all snug and warm in your bed. Suddenly, your phone rings. On the other end of the line, sounding like he’s inside of a tin can, is your loving son: the one you used to read to at night; the one under whose pillow you placed a dollar when he lost his first tooth; the one you taught to ride a bike. And what does this fine young man have to say to you after he’s woken you from your peaceful slumber? The last three words a parent ever wants to hear: “I’m in jail.” Although your first instinct is to tell him, “You got yourself into this, now get yourself out . . .” and then hang up the phone, at least your second instinct would be to ask yourself, “Now what?”
What to Say When You Get That Call
Our criminal justice system is one of the strongest connections to our Founding Fathers and the history of this nation, but very few people truly understand how it can affect them or, much less, how to maneuver through it once they have been caught up by the slow-spinning wheels of justice. Far too often people find themselves lamenting the fact that they are up a creek without a paddle instead of focusing on how to get out of that canoe. They want to tell their story to anyone who will listen, as if by some miracle a guard at the jail is going to say, “Oh, well, now that you’ve explained it that way, I see clearly that you did not commit this offense. Of course, you may leave! Here, let me get the door for you.” Which leads me to Rule Number One for those who find themselves behind bars: Keep your mouth shut! Do not discuss the facts of the case over the phone with your incarcerated loved one. Most conversations in a jail facility are recorded. Make sure your loved one understands this: No talk about apologies, regret, or recriminations—nothing that makes him sound guilty.