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Prison Families Anonymous is a self-help organization whose purpose is to help the families and friends who now have or once had a loved one involved in the criminal or juvenile justice system.  PFA began in February of 1974 because three women were concerned about the impact on the family when a loved one becomes involved in the system.  It was the hope and intent of the founders to provide a way to keep families from facing their fears and trauma alone.

The group meets regularly (see directions) so members can share their experiences, feelings, hopes and resources with each other.  Telephone support is available at all times.  PFA members give each other support and caring where otherwise there might be none.  The confidentiality and anonymity of families is respected at all times.

When the call comes that someone you love has been arrested, a feeling of helplessness and panic sets in.  What is arraignment?  Where will s/he sleep tonight?  What about a lawyer?  Where will the money come from?  Why doesn’t the lawyer call back?  When and how can I visit?  Can I bring anything?  How will I visit an upstate prison?  How can I afford this?  Will s/he change while away?  Will I?  What will I say if my neighbors or friends ask me where s/he is?  What do I do or say when the children come home and tell me they were harassed in school?  How can I hold my head up if the story was in the newspapers?  What do I do about a car, insurance, bills and the house?  Will things be better or worse when s/he comes home?  How can I help things improve?  How can I learn to trust again?

Most everyone involved in PFA has or once had a friend or loved one arrested, tried, or sentenced to jail or prison.  PFA members know what if feels like to love someone accused of a crime.  There are agencies and organizations to help formerly incarcerated persons or to help victims, but there is very little available in the way of support for families.  PFA fills this vital need.  Society accuses, ostracizes and sentences a family member or friend at the same time as the offender.  A wife leaves the courtroom after her husband is sentenced, goes home, looks around, and the reality that she has to go it alone hits her.  How will she bring up the children?  What will she tell them?  How will she feed, clothe and provide for them?  How does she cope with the loneliness?  A wife or a mother or a father often examines her or his life and asks what s/he could have done differently.  And would doing things differently have prevented the crime?  The family knows in their hearts that they are not guilty, yet they feel others pointing the accusing finger.  Relatives say to forget him or her.  Neighbors can’t wait to talk about it.

In addition to providing emotional support, PFA educates families about the criminal justice system, about jails and prisons, about re-entry issues, about pending legislation, about resources they might not be aware of.  Information is empowering and families need to know that they do have a voice in how the system operates.

PFA cares.  PFA is committed to helping strengthen those families who are “doing the time on the outside.”  PFA feels that the family has been sadly neglected.  PFA is dedicated to creating awareness, in the system, of the family and its needs, to filling the gap between the arrest and the eventual release back into the community.  PFA believes that the family is a valuable and vital resource for preventing recidivism.  Strengthening the family serves to strengthen the offender, both during incarceration and after release.