“Families are the first, and often only, resource that ex-offenders can turn to once they are released from prison. Families not only provide the immediate necessities of food and shelter, but they also give necessary emotional support that helps the ex-offenders avoid substance abuse and become working members of society. Without this encouragement, ex-offenders quickly return to the last thing they knew before they were incarcerated- a life of crime.”-Pat Nolan
Studies have consistently found that regular visits from family members are one of the biggest contributors to a reduction in recidivism, yet so many barriers exist that prevent its regular occurrence. When the distance between the incarcerated person and their friends or family increases, the chance of visitation decreases. For example, when the distance between the offender and family is between 500 and 1,000 miles, only 14% of people receive visitors. Contrastingly, around 50% of people get visitors when the distance is 50 miles or less. Half of the prisoners in America are kept 100-500 miles from their families-meaning that only a quarter of them get visitors. Visitation reduces recidivism, promotes healthy family relationships, and provides an incentive to get out sooner (promoting good behavior). Therefore, the closer prisoners are to their families and homes, the better result the criminal justice system will have in promoting a safer society. This is a wiser use of taxpayer money as it provides a better rate of return on investment.
The distance is especially difficult on children. When kids have an incarcerated parent it can be very challenging for them, and they end up having behavioral problems, anger issues, and other complications that they might not have had without an incarcerated parent. Studies have also shown that having a parent behind bars leads to poor mental and physical health once the child reaches adulthood. Parental incarceration impacts children not just for the time being, but for their entire lives. Nearly 7% of children in America have lived with a parent who is or was incarcerated-meaning that all of those children are now more susceptible to mental and physical health problems all because of a flawed system. If frequent visitation helps in these situations, then why aren’t inmates kept close to their families?