Dr. James Woodall, a researcher in the United Kingdom, writes important blogs on issues facing prisoners and their families. He lists ten reasons why prison visits are so important:
- Humanitarian reasons. A prison sentence means the loss of liberty, not the desolation of family ties.
- Prisoner well-being. Visits are important markers for prisoners, often providing a much needed ‘boost’.
- Visits from family and friends mitigates against prisoners becoming institutionalised.
- Visiting helps family (children especially) to understand what prison is like for their loved one.
- Prison visits make it more likely that the family remains intact this means that when the prisoner is released he/she is better able to integrate into society.
- Better integration means lower likelihood of re-offending.
- Visits allow prisoners, albeit temporarily, to maintain their role as husband/wife/father/mother/son/daughter. It is an important reminder that they are more than ‘a prisoner’.
- Maintaining family ties through visits is a cost-effective way to reduce recidivism.
- Visits keep families together and potentially prevents family-breakdown.
- Visits and the maintenance of family ties can help prevent intergenerational offending.
Considering the fact that only about 12% of Michigan prisoners receive any visit at all, one would think that the department would do everything in its power to make visits easy and simple. But it doesn’t go that way.
Tiffany must drive hours with her two little kids to visit her husband. Long waits can be an issue, but food and dollars are really important. She writes:
Newberry Correctional Facility is hours away from mostly anything. Having adequate food in the visiting room is an issue now more than ever. With visitors expected to forfeit one of their two weekend visits a month if they leave and come back, many choose to stay and be hungry. The reason? Empty vending machines. NCF's most recent solution: Raising the price of meal options by $1. Hamburgers and boxed items are now $5 while small burritos are $4. Last time I visited, the one vending machine offering meals is now well-stocked -- and I can understand why when I spend $10 just to feed my 7-year-old two small trays of mac and cheese!
...This last time I felt very sick thinking about whether to feed my kids or my husband. I don't question going without myself because that has been happening for a while now. The kids will get fed, of course, but why should it come to this?
No wonder Jesus praised those willing to make a visit behind bars: I was in prison and you visited me.