While maintaining contact with a loved one in prison can be difficult and emotionally taxing, staying connected can make a huge difference in their life. Prisons are impersonal and can often strip individuals of their sense of self. Incarcerated persons are cut off from their friends and family, so maintaining contact with incarcerated loved ones is vital.
Staying connected has a positive impact on the life of an inmate and may even help reduce the recidivism rate since it allows the prisoner to remain connected to the outside world and regain a sense of normalcy. Without this sense of attachment and connection, it can be easy to get lost in the prison culture. Staying involved and keeping the lines of communication open can help tremendously, as it can have a positive effect on their sense of self, impacting the individual – both behaviorally and emotionally – and improving their quality of life as a result.
The Importance of Prison Visitation
Visitation doesn’t just help maintain a prisoner’s faith and sense of self, but it can also help keep a person from returning to jail once they are released. In fact, the ability to maintain vital connections through visitation has been found to be a cost-effective way to reduce recidivism. According to a 2011 Minnesota Department of Corrections study, there is a correlation between prison visitations and re-conviction rates. The study examined 16,420 persons who were released from a Minnesota prison between 2003 and 2007, and it was discovered that there is a direct link between regular visitation and a decreased risk of recidivism.
It was revealed that imprisoned individuals that received regular visitors while they were incarcerated were 13% less likely to commit a new crime, and were 25% less likely to violate their release conditions. Those who did not receive visitors during their prison sentence were more likely to become a repeat offender. Another study, published in 2012 by the Vera Institute, also found that people who are incarcerated are more likely to succeed when they are able to maintain contact with friends and family. Existing evidence shows us that visitation and the show of support can be the difference between a cycle of re-offending or starting a new life and integrating back into society.
Other Ways to Stay in Touch
Keeping in touch with imprisoned individuals is imperative, as it helps them remain connected to the outside world and can help reduce the rate of recidivism. Even if it is impossible for you to visit on a regular basis, there are other ways to remain connected and show your support. If your loved one is incarcerated, learn more about what you can do to stay in touch.
• Writing a letter is a time-honored way to keep in contact with someone who is detained. Written messages are an important, tangible reminder of loved ones and of the outside world. However, this method may be a slow one since correctional staff typically sort and check the mail before it is received. An important step to take before you write and send your letter is to call the correctional facility ahead of time to ask about their rules and regulations. Each facility is different and requirements can vary.
• Telephone communication, while often limited, is still a vital means for imprisoned individuals to maintain their connection to the outside world. While it’s not possible to make a call to the prison to speak to your loved one, imprisoned individuals can make an outgoing phone call to you. While talking on the phone is a viable option, it is essential to keep in mind that this method can get expensive and all phone calls are subject to monitoring and/or recording. Remember, rules and regulations can vary from facility to facility, so contact the correctional facility to find out more information.
• Even though inmates are not allowed to use social media while they are in custody, some jails utilize an email service so you can email your loved one, and in some instances, they can reply back. Typically email access is through a secure, private intranet and it is not the same as the internet. Emails are often restricted to a certain amount of characters, and attachments are not permitted. To find out if email is a viable option, contact the correctional facility to learn more.
- http://www.doccs.ny.gov/FamilyGuide/FamilyHandbook.html (last accessed May 10, 2018)
- https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2013/apr/15/minnesota-study-shows-prisoners-receiving-visits-have-lower-recidivism-rates/ (last accessed May 10, 2018)
- http://www.capps-mi.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/7.7-Effects-of-prison-visitation-on-recidivism.pdf (last accessed May 10, 2018)
- https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/news/2014/apr/15/lowering-recidivism-through-family-communication/ (last accessed May 10, 2018)
- http://blog.prisonconnect.us/how-to-stay-connected-with-loved-one-in-prison/ (last accessed May 10, 2018)
- https://www.prisonfellowship.org/resources/support-friends-family-of-prisoners/coping-incarceration-loved-one/how-to-contact-prisoners/ (last accessed May 10, 2018)