Can Prison Visitation Reduce Recidivism?

A study funded by the National Science Foundation will explore if prison visitation can help reduce recidivism rates and whether there are gender, racial, and ethnic differences in these patterns.

Dr. Melinda Tasca of Sam Houston State University and colleagues from Arizona State University and Florida State University will collaborate on the study, which is based on all inmates released from the Arizona Department of Corrections between Fiscal Year 2011 and 2013 as well as interviews with a sample of offenders from all levels of custody.

“Prison visitation has emerged as a promising tool to protect against the potential criminogenic effects of imprisonment,” said Dr. Melinda Tasca, Assistant Professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology at SHSU. “In particular, visitation may serve to create, mend or maintain the social ties that are critical for successful offender reentry into the community.”

The study will examine levels of support received in prison and whether support varies by inmates’ gender and race/ethnicity. The study will result in recommendations for policy and practice on prison visitation.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 1,561,400 men and women incarcerated in federal and state prisons at the end of 2014.

Dr. Tasca serves as principal investigator for the Arizona Prison Visitation Project (APVP), a mixed-method study aimed at advancing knowledge on prison visitation and its effects on recidivism, misconduct, and self-harm. Her dissertation, funded by the National Institute of Justice, examined the emotional and behavioral responses of children who visited their parents in prison.

Dr. Tasca, who recently was elected as a member of the American Society of Criminology Division of Corrections and Sentencing Executive Board, specializes in the consequences of incarceration for prisoners, children and families, correctional policy, and the intersection of race and gender within these contexts. Her work has been published in peer-reviewed journals as Criminal Justice and Behavior, Journal of Interpersonal Violence, International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, Violence Against Women, and Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice.

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