Two-and-a-half million people in the United States wake up every morning in a prison. The US incarcerates a larger share of its population than any other country on earth. 95% of all presently incarcerated people will be released at some point.² But unfortunately, just three years later, half will be back in prison.³
Why? One reason is the loss of connection – especially to family members and other loved ones – that happens while someone is incarcerated. The average family can’t afford to take off work, travel hundreds of miles out of state, and cover lodging costs just to visit a loved one for a few limited visitation hours.⁵ So, too many families with incarcerated people disintegrate, causing drastic consequences, including substance abuse, learning and education loss, and mental illness.⁶ These issues are especially acute in the more than 50% of families with incarcerated people which have children under the age of 18.
Thankfully, simple visits between loved ones can prevent or heal much of this damage. Studies show that family visits can reduce recidivism by as much as 50%.⁷ Meaningful contact with parents also reduces behavior problems, criminal activity, and mental and physical problems in children.⁸
The benefits of increased visitation and reduced recidivism do not stop at the personal level. Maintaining connections to family members can help incarcerated people readjust and contribute to society after they’ve paid their debts to it. Lower spending on reoffenders can save states $18 billion per year.⁹ Preserving support networks for incarcerated people thus has significant advantages for everyone.