Friday, May 27, 2022

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Family Visits for People in Jail Seen as Key to Success

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Monday, December 27, 2021   

As holiday celebrations continue, groups that study issues in prisons say families with a loved one who's incarcerated should make attempts to connect with them. They say even with long-standing barriers, the visits have lasting impact.

The Prison Policy Initiative says 50 years of research has found that people held in state prisons who receive in-person visits are less likely to be reincarcerated after their release.

The Initiative's Communications Strategist Wanda Bertram said in recent years, prison and jail systems have added a variety of barriers making it tougher to connect in person, by phone or by mail. But she said that shouldn't deter families.

"We want higher rates of success when people leave prison and they're re-entering society," said Bertram. "You know, we want people who are mentally well."

And researchers have found a connection between visitation and a person's tendency to obey rules inside a correctional facility.

The initiative says South Dakota ranks in the middle among states for the highest cost of a 15 minute call from a jail, but it's still above the $10 mark.

As for better outcomes, Bertram said it goes beyond reducing recidivism - the benefits can be seen in a variety of ways.

"People who are frequently in touch with family have better mental health outcomes," said Bertram. "It actually impacts their physical health, it impacts their improvement in school and educational programs."

As the nation sees another COVID surge, Bertram said she worries administrators around the country will go to greater lengths to block visits.

South Dakota resumed public visits at state facilities earlier this year, but Bertram said she worries about the potential for a patchwork of restrictions at local jails.



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