The families of some Iowa prison inmates are getting some help coping with the issues surrounding the incarceration of a loved one. A new program, called Families Also Serve Time (FAST), was launched in May in the Fourth Judicial District in southwest Iowa.
Community Treatment Coordinator Steve Weis says the sessions include an introduction the criminal justice system and what the inmate’s family can expect. Weis says the program also addresses the family’s emotional needs, "things like ‘was I a bad parent?’ What did I do wrong?’ Those type of issues."
Weis says it’s also designed to help families understand what their loved one might go through when they’re released from prison. "We know that there are certain things that family members have a hard time adjusting to," Weis says. "Maybe an offender is very structured when they come out of prison, and when they go out into the real world, they don’t see that structure in the family. They may need to be fed at the same time every day or sleep with the lights on if that’s something they’re used to."
The program has received a grant from the Iowa West Foundation. Right now, the program is only offered in southwest Iowa. Weis says officials in other judicial districts have contacted him to learn more about possibly starting a similar effort in their part of the state.