Research shows that incarcerated adults who have strong relationships with loved ones fare better in prison and pose less of a risk to public safety when they return to the community.Phone calls, letter writing, and visitation with family members, and other so-called “pro-social supports,” help sustain these relationships. They also help adults adjust to imprisonment and limit what has been called the “pains of incarceration”—all of which has been associated with reduced behavioral infractions.
It seems likely that such findings also hold true for incarcerated youth. However, there is very limited research on whether family visitation affects incarcerated juveniles’ behavior.To examine the effects on juveniles, the Vera Institute of Justice (Vera) and theOhio Department of Youth Services (DYS),
with support from the Public Welfare Foundation, collaborated on Families as Partners: Supporting Youth Reentry in Ohio, a research and technical assistance project. Vera researchers found that family visitation of incarcerated youth was associated with improved behavior and school performance. These findings highlight the importance of visitation and suggest that juvenile correctional facilities should try to change their visitation policies and related practices to promote more frequent visitation with families.