Ask a Counselor: Should I Visit My Criminal Brother in Jail?

By | May 22, 2010

I have a moral dilemma that is causing me problems with myself and my father, mother and siblings. I live south of the border, in Baja California; my brother was caught smuggling Cocaine to the United States and is awaiting sentencing, which will be next week. He might get transferred out of California making it more difficult to visit him in prison.

I feel so much anger towards him, because it looks like he started to get involved with drug traffickers and money laundering for the past 3 years, putting his wife, daughter and family in danger. You’ve seen the news from Mexico regarding the drug wars?

He said he was not involved, but this event tells me not to believe him. My mother tells me he is lonely in jail, “I should visit him, give him my support and help”, I tell her “he made the decision to smuggle the drugs, he knew the consequences if he got cough. It’s not like he is in jail because he was caught in a DUI, shoplifting or because he ran over someone by accident, he is in jail because of drug trafficking, the same drugs that have fueled the drug related murders in Mexico.”

Of course my mother starts crying, but I don’t feel I should visit someone that did what he did. My other brother and sisters think the same way as my mother; that I’m wrong to treat him this way. Am I wrong? Should I swallow my pride and be a hypocrite and visit him?

Thank you,


Dear Joe,

Thanks for your question and for sharing this difficult dilemma with us. First off it is extremely difficult for us when the people closest to us do things that are appalling. It is hard to make sense of it all or how they strayed so far from what they know is right.

Secondly, you are not morally obligated to visit your brother, this is your choice and yours alone. However, in saying that there is a difference between showing someone love and condoning their behavior. Love doesn’t even require that we agree with what someone does or believes but love is a choice and a gift we can give without anything in return.

So my advice would be to put your anger aside and visit your brother out of love for him. This doesn’t make what he did right, but love is a powerful thing that has the ability to transform lives. Your loving him could be one of the keys to him really turning his life around and it has the potential to really impact your life as well because our ability to put self aside and love the unlovable truly grows our character and actually draws us closer to the heart of God.

It is your choice and hopefully you will make a choice that will benefit yourself and your brother for the good. I wish you all the best.

Kind regards,


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