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"It's Not All Cupcakes and Lollipops": An Investigation of the Predictors and Effects of Prison Visitation for Children during Maternal and Paternal Incarceration

NCJ Number
Melinda Tasca
Date Published
May 2014
172 pages
This study examined factors associated with the impact of prison visitation for children during maternal and paternal incarceration.

A highlight of the study is the finding of the significant investment of time, planning, and financial resources made by many overly burdened mother and grandmother caregivers of children during their father's or mother's incarceration; however, the study found largely negative impacts from children's prison visits. Out of the 40 children examined for prison visitation experiences, 69 percent manifested negative responses; only 31 percent of the children responded positively to the prison visits. Typical negative responses were fear, anger, and crying that stemmed from the prison environment, invasive security procedures, and stern and unfriendly prison staff. Although recommendations are offered for improving prison visitation for children, the primary recommendations focus on reducing the use of imprisonment in favor of community supervision that not only facilitates a more normal interaction between offender parents and their children, but also eliminates the burden on child caregivers of having to manage the logistics of a prison visit. Although quantitative data were collected on 984 children through structured interviews with incarcerated parents (279 mothers and 143 fathers) in the Arizona Department of Corrections, data on only 40 children's emotional and behavioral reactions to prison visitation were obtained from their caregivers. Implications are drawn for policy, theory, and future research. 4 tables, and 90 references