Towards Family Preservation: A Systematic Jurisdiction Analysis of Prison Visitation Policies During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Julissa O. Muñiz, Frederique Corcoran, Jenna Marzougui, Rebecca Shlafer, J. Mark Eddy, Danielle Dallaire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Since the onset of COVID-19, visitation to correctional facilities has been in flux, including periods of nationwide suspensions for all in-person visits. Frequent, high-quality parent–child interactions are critical in preventing recidivism and beneficial for the healthy development of children with incarcerated parents. As more variants arise, prisons must reevaluate their family visitation policies to ensure that families stay connected yet safe. As a follow-up to a previous study, we documented how different jurisdictions, including all 50 states, the District of Columbia (D.C.), and the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP), communicated, via their websites, their response to COVID-19 and the changes to prison visitation policies. Using each jurisdiction’s website as our primary data source, we gathered publicly available information related to each state’s COVID-19 safety protocols and prison visitation policies, with special attention to policies pertaining to minors. Findings suggest that as of November and December 2021, all jurisdictions, except D.C., had resumed in-person family visits (n= 34; 65.4%) or had announced their commitment to a phased return (n= 17; 32.7%). Additionally, most states and D.C. (n= 35; 65.7%) offered video visits to all of their prison residents (incarcerated individuals) and six states (11.5%) offered video visits to some of their residents, whereas 11 states and the Federal BOP (21.2%) did not offer any video visits as an alternative. Despite the continued need for safe, accessible, and family-friendly alternatives to in-person visits, 11 jurisdictions did not offer video visitation to their residents further straining families’ ability to stay connected through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalPsychology, Public Policy, and Law
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank the various students from William and Mary, the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, and the University of Texas at Austin who supported this project in the early stages of data collection. A special shoutout to Sam Gruber who in the final stretch helped us create the figures needed for publication. Thank you to our reviewers and editor for the generative feedback that helped strengthen our article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 American Psychological Association

Keywords

  • communication
  • correctional policy
  • COVID-19
  • incarceration
  • visiting

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