Inside Teresa Giudice's Life in Prison: 'The Hardest Part Is Just Being Away from Joe and the Girls,' Says Source

The Real Housewives of New Jersey star is struggling with her new reality

Photo: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters/Corbis

There’s nothing easy about doing hard time.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice has learned this much over the past year as she’s served out the bulk of her 15-month prison sentence at the federal institution in Danbury, Connecticut.

But despite getting shaken down by guards, having to trade items she purchased at commissary for beauty services and covering her ears at night to shut out the noise of other inmates’ sexual encounters, by far the worst aspect of her prison stay has been the isolation from family.

“It’s really hard for her to be away from Joe and the girls,” a source close to Teresa tells PEOPLE exclusively in this week’s issue, detailing the distance prison has created between Teresa and her husband Joe Giudice and their four young daughters Gia, 14, Gabriella, 10, Milania, 9, and Audriana, 6. “That’s the hardest part.”

According to the source, Joe and the girls visit as often as they can and “are excited every time they see her, even if it’s bittersweet”. But in the interim, Teresa only has timed phone privileges to stay in touch. “She gets limited phone calls,” explains the source. “She has 300 minutes a month. That isn’t enough when you’re a mom trying to talk to your kids.”

She’s making the most of her time on the inside – she’s penning a tell-all memoir titled Turning The Tables with PEOPLE staff writer K.C. Baker, teaching inmate exercise classes and has even formed a solid friend group.

“She just wants to be home already,” says the source.

And it won’t be long now. The source confirms, “She’s out on Dec. 23. She’s so excited.”

RELATED VIDEO: How The Real Housewives of New Jersey’s Gia Giudice Is Stepping Up While Mom Teresa Is Away

For more from Teresa Giudice’s life behind bars, pick up this week’s issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday

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