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Dissecting the Issue of Child Prison Visitation

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Dated: November/December 2015 Pages: 20-21
Date Published
November 2015
2 pages
Publication Series

This article reports on a study that examined the reasons why certain children, unlike other children, visit their incarcerated parents, with attention to the factors that determine whether a prison visit with a parent has a positive or negative impact for the child.


The study, which was conducted by Melinda Tasca for a doctoral dissertation funded by the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), involved surveys of 600 incarcerated parents in the Arizona Department of Corrections as well as in-depth interviews with 100 caregivers who facilitated the visits of 218 children from Maricopa County. The study found that mother and grandmother caretakers were the most likely to encourage visitation because they have a vested interest in seeing the incarcerated parent return to a supportive role in the child's life upon reentry, especially if that parent was involved with the child's life prior to incarceration. The study found that approximately two-thirds of the children had a difficult time visiting with their parent, as evidenced by their reactions after the visits. The reactions included fear, anger, anxiety, crying, depression, emotional outbursts, and problems in school. In contrast, about one-third of the children had positive experiences, such as excitement and improved attitudes, as well as behavior during the visit; they looked forward to future visits. Factors related to the visits' impact on children were the strength of the relationship between the child and parent and the prison environment in which the visit occurred. Although correctional staff can do little to influence the dynamics between a parent and child, they can contribute to the positive aspects of prison visitation by improving the atmosphere and environment in which visits occur. Some suggestions are offered.

Date Published: November 1, 2015