The emotional hardships for the more than 2.7 million children affected by incarceration has been well-documented. One study even suggests that parental incarceration may be worse for the child than divorce or the death of a parent. Though the separation a prison sentence creates is inevitable, 4th Purpose Foundation would like to explore possibilities that will improve the family connections through incarceration, and help remove any unnecessary barriers families may encounter.
Research demonstrates that increased family contact and emotional connection improves the well-being of the child and the parent. Positive family connections, such as visits and calls, have also demonstrated a positive effect on inmate behavior and even recidivism rates. A landmark study by the Minnesota Department of Corrections, evaluating over 16,000 released inmates, reported that even one visit reduced the risk of recidivism by 13% for felony reconvictions and 25% for technical violation revocation. Helping families affected by incarceration to stay connected could be the most efficient and cost-effective reentry effort any facility could incorporate.
A focus of the 4th Purpose team is to work with prison administrators to promote healthy family connections. Utilizing a rubric drawn from the “Model Practices for Parents in Prisons and Jails: Reducing Barriers to Family Connections,” we propose the review of policies, visitation areas, and staff/family interactions to ensure the utilization of best practices in order for prisons to be as family-visitation-friendly as possible. The evaluation criteria are the research results from the Urban Institute, which were adopted and promoted by the National Institute of Corrections as guidelines for correctional administrators in their efforts to reduce barriers to incarcerated parents’ communication with their children. The recommendations of this document are not only evidence-based, but are also low-cost and high-impact practices.
 American Sociological Association (ASA). “Parental Incarceration can be worse for a child than divorce or death of a parent.” ScienceDaily, 16 August 2014. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140816204411.htm
 Joshua C. Cochran, “The Ties that Bind or the Ties That Break: Examining the Relationship between Visitation and Prisoner Misconduct,” Journal of Criminal Justice 40 (5): 433-40, 2012; Karen De Claire and Louise Dixon, “The Effects of Prison Visits from Family members on Prisoners’ Well-Being, Prison Rule Breaking, and Recidivism: A Review of Research since 1991,” Trauma, Violence, & Abuse18 (2): 185-99, 2017; Grant Duwe and Valarie Clark, “Blessed Be the Social Tie That Binds: The Effects of Prison Visitation on Offender Recidivism,” Criminal Justice Policy Review 24 (3): 271-96, 2013.
 Minnesota DOC “The Effects of Prison Visitation on Offender Recidivism” November 2011, 27.
 Peterson, B., Fontaine, J., & Cramer, L. (2019, July 15). Model Practices for Parents in Prisons and Jails(Rep.). Retrieved https://www.urban.org/research/publication/model-practices-parents-prisons-and-jails. A presentation of this research was conducted at the American Correctional Association Conference in January of 2020 in San Diego, CA.