Helping Families Affected by Incarceration

By: Julia Lazareck
President of Friends and Family of Incarcerated Persons (FFIP)

The phone rings late at night and you get a call that you never imagined … your loved one has been arrested and is being held in prison. Shock turns to confusion. How can you help? What are their rights? Where do you turn for answers?

What would you do if you received such a call? You may think that it could never happen to anyone close to you, but in fact, thousands of families in Clark County receive that heartbreaking call each year. And, most of them have no idea about the journey that lies ahead.

I am pleased to introduce you to our organization, FFIP (Friends and Family of Incarcerated Persons, Inc.), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. FFIP provides support to family members as they deal with having a loved one in the prison system. Our members have experience with the prison system and share critical information to help you and your family make good decisions while you support your incarcerated loved one.

We also work to educate the community about the effect that the incarceration of a loved one has on all family members, from grandparents to the youngest child. Those living “on the outside” (a common term for those who have a loved one “in the system”) suddenly find themselves forcibly separated from a parent, uncle, sibling, or even a close family friend. This experience often sets in motion a deep sense of grief and loss, almost like mourning a death, which impacts the entire family’s emotional well-being. When a loved one suddenly disappears from the family structure, it is not surprising to see increased rates of depression, poor work performance and job loss, and the resulting financial instability that this causes. In these ways, incarceration imposes a tremendous loss to the community as a whole, by reducing residents' productivity and economic participation.

It may surprise you to know that there are over six million people in the prison system in America. As a result, more than five million children have experienced a parent in the prison system. * This sudden and traumatic separation has a lasting effect on children at any age, and if they are old enough to remember, the memory stays with them a lifetime.

For over 19 years, FFIP has led the way in providing information to families and friends who are often in shock that something like this could befall their close circle. But believe me, it can and does happen to people from all walks of life, and once the shock wears off, there is no process in place within the court system to walk you through the next steps. FFIP is just one of several organizations that provide concrete information on visitation policies and procedures, and what you can do when your loved one comes home.

Prison release presents a whole new set of challenges to navigate, and among them is the critical need to understand probation and parole. Since each incarcerated person has their own set of circumstances, we aren’t able to answer all of your questions in this article, but we encourage anyone who is dealing with a loved one’s incarceration to visit our website at, where you will find more information, along with a list of upcoming speakers and events at the Clark County Library (see inset for dates and times). These monthly programs are free and open to the public, and will provide valuable information to educate the community, as well as those who have loved ones in the prison system.

Creating a Community of Support

FFIP is honored to be of service to people who are working their way through such a challenging time. You can contact us for information, or to volunteer, by calling 702.763.1389. We also encourage you to reach out to the organizations listed below. 

Friends & Family of Incarcerated Persons Monthly Meeting

Clark County Library

Thu., Sept. 5 at 6:30 p.m.

Thu., Oct. 3 at 6 p.m.

Thu., Nov. 7 at 6 p.m.

Helpful Links:

Hope for Prisoners:

Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada:

Nevada Department of Corrections:

Southern Nevada Prison Ministries:

* Please note: A person is considered “in the prison system” if they are waiting in jail to be sentenced, currently incarcerated in a prison, or currently on parole and/or probation.