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October 21, 2015

"Separation by Bars and Miles: Visitation in state prisons"

SeparationByBarsAndMiles_250The title of this post is the title of this notable new report from the Prison Policy Initiative. This press release about the report provides this overview:

Less than a third of people in state prison receive a visit from a loved one in a typical month [according to] a new report by the Prison Policy Initiative, Separation by Bars and Miles: Visitation in state prisons. The report finds that distance from home is a strong predictor for whether an incarcerated person receives a visit.

“For far too long, the national data on prison visits has been limited to incarcerated parents. We use extensive yet under-used Bureau of Justice Statistics data to shed light on the prison experience for all incarcerated people, finding that prisons are lonely places,” said co-author Bernadette Rabuy, who recently used the same BJS dataset for Prisons of Poverty: Uncovering the pre-incarceration incomes of the imprisoned.

Separation by Bars and Miles finds that most people in state prison are locked up over 100 miles from their families and that, unsurprisingly, these great distances — as well as the time and expense required to overcome them — actively discourage family visits. Given the obvious reluctance of state prison systems to move their facilities, the report offers six correctional policy recommendations that states can implement to protect and enhance family ties. Rabuy explained, “At this moment, as policymakers are starting to understand that millions of families are victims of mass incarceration, I hope this report gives policymakers more reasons to change the course of correctional history.”

October 21, 2015 at 02:58 PM | Permalink


Not only state but federal prisons are often far from the prisoner's family. Limited visiting hours, transportation costs which often require over-nite stays, food, lodging, fuel costs. It all adds up for the prisoner's family. Doesn't seem like the powers-that-be care too much about that. And they wonder why prisoners get depressed?

Posted by: kat | Oct 21, 2015 5:51:42 PM

Query: What do the people on this blog think about courts forcing divorced parents to take children to visit the other parent in prison?

Posted by: federalist | Oct 21, 2015 7:34:13 PM

I sympathize with those unable to receive visitors on a regular basis. Writing and phone calls aren't the same as physical contact. In some cases the outrageous cost of phone calls was almost as prohibitive as traveling to the location on a regular basis. Fortunately I had the means to visit a family member at least 2 to 3 times a month for several years while they were incarcerated at a federal facility that was 100 miles away. That's certainly not the norm by any means for most.

Posted by: Rick | Oct 21, 2015 7:38:17 PM

Kat nailed it. Federal facilities most often are greater than a 4 hr drive. At times they can be 10-12 hrs away. They require overnight stays and eating out.

The vending machines in thise places suck. 1.50 for a pop and the machines keep your money and you have no recourse. Oh well what can you expect from the feds.

I am awaiting for 86 yr old Chuck Grassley from Iowa and his reform bill.

I bet there are more increases than decreases. Also on the areas that they lower they will have 4-5 exclusion rules. If your greater than category 3, your wifes sisters husbands had a speeding ticket, ( checking to see if your really reading thus ). Any domestic, any violence at all.

What they dont understand federal us all about drugs. These guys have the hughest history points. Get owi's abd drive with no license, etc etc. get arrested and let out the same day. What the hell, if they have a dtug problem they need to feed it. It's not like giving up coffee in the morning. These old geisers shouldnt be in office is my point.

How many if you know an 86 yr old thats working today. These guys are US Senatirs, Congress, and federal judges. Really. Of ciarae, clise enough fir govnt work.
this really needs to be addressed. It will rake a set of balls to get ut done though.

Hiw old is Hillery Clinton. Bill looks good, but us frail as hell. These peop,e cannot do justice.

This is why we have a $17 trillion debt. Oh well enough.

Posted by: MidWestGuy | Oct 21, 2015 9:17:40 PM

It is 20 frickin' 15. It is not 1995 anymore. See Skype.com, Facetime.com, and Vsee.com

Problem solved, you frickin' lawyer morons.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 21, 2015 10:39:44 PM

s.c. take your meds!

Posted by: observer | Oct 22, 2015 12:36:43 AM

Observer. Did you run across an old, thrown in the trash, KGB handbook? Any dissenter from the current sicko doctrines of the totally stupid lawyer profession must be insane and involuntarily committed.

I invite you to move to Venezuela, where you will be more comfortable, and feel more at home. I mean that invitation for your personal welfare.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 22, 2015 1:34:50 AM

S.C, not the blue pill, the red one! How many times do you have to be told.

Posted by: observer | Oct 22, 2015 9:08:58 AM

The problem in this case is not Supremacy's logic; it's his premise. Many prisons don't provide inmates with internet access. For security reasons they don't install wi-fi or have cell phone service. The families can get Skype and Facetime, but they can't use those services to communicate with the prisoner.

Posted by: arfarf | Oct 22, 2015 1:59:06 PM

Arf. This is where prison advocacy groups can make themselves useful. Is there no way to have dedicated terminals, with monitoring, not of conversations, but of accessed URL addresses? Abuse of this privilege should result in permanent exclusion from the privilege.

I suggest a controlled experiment. Give half of a prison tablets open to monitoring by authorities for fraud schemes, conspiratorial communications, and hacking. Porn would be encouraged. Then just count, 1,2,3. Count the incident reports in each group. One may even quantify an effect by giving one group unlimited, full time, or 6 hours or 12 hours of 0 hours a day of access. Again, count, 1,2,3.

This proposal includes math no higher than that of the second grade. It is eminently doable for the lawyer.

I predict the following results. Total addiction, and a drop in the number of incidents to nearly zero. There may be more conflict with guards over please, getting one more hour on the tablet before going to sleep.

For an advanced follow up. Prison internet businesses. Prisoners have more of what compared to others on the outside? Time. So sell their time on the internet to desperately busy people. For example, it will take me three hours to turn off a phone line (three minutes to start one). I would gladly pay a prisoner $100 to find my phone company, get to the right person, and to use any threat necessary to get them to turn off a line. There is an extra $50 tip if he can credibly tell the call center guy in India, I know where you live and a thugee is coming over with a gada, and will kick your ass and that of your family if you do not turn off the phone in the next 1 minute.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 22, 2015 11:41:31 PM

Visiting my loved one in Federal Prison (which was only open to visits on Friday thru Sunday...8 am to 3 pm) always only made sense with an overnight stay. As was 4 and half hour drive away...leaving even as early as 6 am would have meant MAYBE a four hour visit (for nine hours of drive time). Leaving earlier than 6 am would have been miserable. So I would leave at reasonable time on Saturday, and hope to get an hour or so visit in before visiting hours over at 3 pm. Then...there you are...in "strange" city until bedtime, at least 8 hours later. Ended up trying just about every restaurant in town...cruising around...killing time. (actually decided the $39 per night Days Inn wasn't THAT bad. Saving $50 bucks on lodging (compared to "nicer" chains at $89) went toward some nicer meals)
Then, next day at the prison at 8 am for an all day visit. Once you get in, you can't leave, and return...so you'd better be prepared to stay awhile. Also, one time, one of my teen kids started feeling sick while visiting. It is NOT ALLOWED to go lie down in the car in the parking lot. So somebody had to leave with him for the day. I stayed, and older teen and sick teen went...somewhere...until time to pick me up.
AND YES...VENDING MACHINES TOTALLY SUCK. The first time I visited, there was not ONE THING in the machine that did not have sugar. It was just pop tarts, candy bars, and honey buns. They were also out of water, and no water fountain in the room. It was soda, or nothing. ALL DAY.
(yes, there was refrigerated pizza, and sausage biscuits in another machine, but ugh, only if desperate. My prisoner didn't mind tho.)
I'd pay $50 to eat a decent meal, and BUY a decent meal for my prisoner while visiting. Don't understand why that's not possible, given plenty of people with nothing better to do.
Every time I visited, I felt somewhat like I was the one being punished.
But you HAVE to visit. AND NO NO NO...phone calls, letters and emails...do not replace real life visit. A video phone wouldn't do it either.

Posted by: folly | Oct 23, 2015 9:21:59 AM

The reality is that most crime is committed in urban areas because that is where most people live (and the high population density also contributes to certain types of crime).

When looking to build a prison, however, the economics favor building in a rural area. First, the price of land in rural areas is typically less than the price of land in an urban area. Second, you can typically obtain sufficient space from one or two owners/families and are not dispossessing a large number of families or businesses of their homes/current business location. Third, in rural areas, the prison will be one of the major employers in the community, potentially allowing the state/federal government to convince the local government to cover part of the infrastructure expense.

These realities mean that, when a person commits a crime, his/her family will also suffer from his conduct and visitations will be few and far between. I feel more sorry for the family than for the defendant who, after all, was the person who broke the law (typically in a serious way or more than once if he is incarcerated in a state prison for any substantial length of time).

Posted by: tmm | Oct 23, 2015 11:15:34 AM

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