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Blessed Be the Social Tie That Binds: The Effect of Prison Visitation on Offender Recidivism

NCJ Number
Criminal Justice Policy Review Volume: 24 Issue: 3 Dated: 2013 Pages: 271-96
Grant Duwe; Valerie Clark
Date Published
26 pages

The authors of this paper analyze their research on the effects of prison visitation on recidivism rates among offenders released from Minnesota prisons and discuss the policy implications of their findings.


Following recent studies in Florida and Canada, the authors discuss their examination of the effects of prison visitation on recidivism among 16,420 offenders released from Minnesota prisons between 2003 and 2007. Using multiple measures of visitation (any visit, total number of visits, visits per month, timing of visits, and number of individual visitors) and recidivism (new offense conviction and technical violation revocation), the authors found that visitation significantly decreased the risk of recidivism, a result that was robust across all of the Cox regression models that were estimated. The results also showed that visits from siblings, in-laws, fathers, and clergy were the most beneficial in reducing the risk of recidivism, whereas visits from ex-spouses significantly increased the risk. The findings suggest that revising prison visitation policies to make them more “visitor friendly” could yield public safety benefits by helping offenders establish a continuum of social support from prison to the community. The authors anticipate, however, that revising existing policies would not likely increase visitation to a significant extent among unvisited inmates, who comprised 39 percent of our sample. Accordingly, they suggest that correctional systems consider allocating greater resources to increase visitation among inmates with little or no social support. Publisher Abstract Provided