Proceedings of the First National Conference on the Family and Corrections

Sacramento, California, April 24-27, 1988

These Proceedings present papers from the First National Conference on the Family and Corrections. These papers capture the spirit of the Conference and reflect its major focus and objectives. They do not, however, cover the full range of workshops, panels, and papers presented during the four days of events and activities. Part I presents the keynote addresses offered at the opening and closing sessions and during two luncheon meetings. The addresses were diverse. They included short, insightful, and inspirational messages, scholarly analysis of critical policy and program issues in the family and corrections field, and experienced-based notes for practice.

Collectively, they stressed the importance of strong, positive family relationships during imprisonment and challenged the diverse Conference audience to work together to achieve common goals. Part II presents two program overviews and a summary of one of the special interest workshops. The first article provides an overview of the services which a governmental entity, New York State, provides to prisoners and their families. The second article, in contrast, describes the family services which the Salvation Army, a private agency, provides in Ottawa, Canada. The special interest workshop summary sets a future agenda for family and corrections work. Six original research papers on the family and corrections are presented in Part III.

Three papers focus specifically on prison visiting. Visiting policies and practices, as viewed by visitors and corrections staff and as reflected in policy directives, are analyzed. Two papers address parenting issues. One provides a summary of the evaluation of a program for imprisoned mothers. The second describes the psychosocial problems faced by fathers who are in prison. The final research paper examines the problems faced by women who maintain relationships with men who are in prison.

The Proceedings provide a record of a momentous occasion, the launching of a national effort to bring together individuals, groups, and representatives of organizations concerned about the family and corrections. The combination of keynote addresses, program descriptions, and research studies presented here makes a significant contribution to the development of knowledge in this emerging interest area. It is hoped that this document will serve as an important resource for offenders and their families, program practitioners, scholars, policy makers and others concerned about the viability of the family unit.

TABLE OF CONTENTS (click on the title to jump down to the section)



Opening Address – Ruth Rushen
Luncheon Address – Sister Elaine Roulet
Luncheon Address – Black Families and Correctional: Policies and Programs: A Dilemma and Challenge – Velma LaPoint, Ph.D
Closing Address – Where Do We Go From Here? – Joseph D. Ossman


New York State Department of Correctional Services Family Services Programs – Marion L. Borum
Salvation Army Correctional Services Family Program – Major C. David Howell
The Future of Family and Corrections in North America: A Special Interest Workshop – Debbie Smith & Creasie Finney Hairston, Ph.D


Current Views of Inmate Visiting – Lawrence A. Bennett, Ph.D
Regulating Parent – Child Communication in Correctional Settings – Creasie Finney Hairston, Ph.D. & Peg McCartt Hess, Ph.D
Prison Visitors: A Profile – Virginia V. Neto
Fathers in Prison: A Psychosocial Exploration – C.S. Lanier, Jr.
Effects of an Integrated Visitation/Educational Program on Development of Parenting Skills for Incarcerated Female Offenders – Luz S. Bolivar
Women Who Love Criminal Offenders: A Psychosocial Survey – Rocco D’Angelo, Ph.D. & Glen McCleese



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We are pleased to present the Proceedings from the First National Conference on the Family and Corrections, which was held in Sacramento, California in April of 1988. This conference was the culmination of the vision and dedication of many individuals and organizations committed to the support of offender-family relationships. Nearly three hundred people gathered from across the United States and Canada to network and to share a variety of perspectives on program and policy issues related to the family and corrections field.

Highlights of this Conference, including keynote addresses, several summaries of workshops, and pertinent research, provide a blueprint for offenders and their families, and those working in the family and corrections field as well as for policy makers, corrections officials, and concerned citizens. We hope these Proceedings generate continued national and international interest in the family and corrections. Family and Corrections Network (FCN), the conference sponsor, continues to promote offender-family services through its publications, membership program, and technical assistance activities. FCN is sponsoring a Second North American Conference on the Family and Corrections April 9-12, 1989 in Albany, New York.

We take this opportunity to thank all of the people who made the First National Conference on the Family and Corrections the success that it was. We encourage the continued development of programs and services which serve to strengthen the relationships between offenders and their families.

Jim Mustin and Barbara Bloom, Conference Directors


Opening Address – Ruth Rushen

Good evening. Let’s see how diverse we are… How many ex-offenders are here? How many families who have or have had people in prison or jail? How many staff members from public institutions? How many volunteers? Did I leave out anybody? Well, I didn’t see anybody with four heads and six eyes. You all look alike to me. I think that what we are trying to say tonight is that we are one. Those of you who have come with those separate agendas… I’m going to suggest, if you want to get the most out of this conference, that you drop them off somewhere tonight. Why don’t we just do it now. Let’s focus on getting the job done. That does not mean that you have to give up your role, but it does mean that you are going to have to give up some of your baggage. Now, that may sound mean, but that’s the role of the keynote speaker. I’m supposed to send some of you out of here hopping mad and some of you out of here feeling “didn’t she get them straight,” so that tomorrow and the next couple of days you will have something else to talk about besides each other. Talk about me; I’ll be gone. I bring you greetings from the Attorney General of the State of California. His name is John Van de Kamp. He asked me to tell you that he’s very aware of the advantages of a national strategy for social problems and wishes you a successful conference.

As I understand it, the focus of this conference is networking with people – within and outside the corrections profession – who are interested in strengthening the family ties of offenders. One is always faced with several approaches when asked to speak. The easiest approach is to trace the historical development of the issue; I’m not going to do that tonight. The second easiest is to sermonize on why we should do this good thing; I’m not going to do that. The third easiest is to give rational reasons: “You ought to do this because … ;” I’m not going to do that either. My experience, which goes back almost 40 years now, is that there is a right thing in all of us and we know what’s right. We know how to be kind. We know how to be genuine. We already know that the family is important. But it seems to me that where we fall is that we start a program; we develop the policy – that’s all the way from the national policy on families and the whole bit – but somewhere along the line we fall short in implementation. So I want to focus on some of the things that, maybe if we looked at them a little bit differently, we could go further. That is not to imply that we’re all not doing a tremendous job. But you wouldn’t be here if everything was okay – right? I mean, if there were no problems and everybody was happy we wouldn’t be here. Now in order to do that I am going to have to say some things about all of us. To start with, there is no tooth fairy. We are the family of offenders. At the same time we are the community. We are the tax payers. And we are the ones who must influence the power brokers. If you’re not ready to do that you can go on home, because no one is going to do it for us. I see, by your program, that the Family and Corrections Network is presenting this conference.

So let’s talk a little bit about networking. Simply stated, networking is people talking to each other and sharing ideas, information and resources for a common good. The important part is not the network, the finished product, but the process of getting there. It does not mean that for the next three days we have to agree or that we can’t have different perspectives. But, I would strongly urge you to come up with your common goals. Otherwise, you might find yourself at your second annual conference talking about the same things. If all of you get on the phone tonight in a common cause, it’s tremendous what you could change. My point for drilling on networking is that as you attend the various workshops and you are presented with different opinions and perspectives – having already gotten rid of your historical baggage – don’t pull rank. Listen. Get information. Tuning out on what I say doesn’t mean you have changed my mind. It means you have addressed a wonderful opportunity to see where I’m coming from so that you can strategize to get something going with me. I said I was going to talk about why we don’t always get there. One of the things that keeps us from getting there is the role of the advocate. We need advocates, so don’t jump the gun. An advocate is a person who supports, a person who argues for a cause, a person who pleads on another’s behalf. I see some really good advocates in this room. I know a lot of you. Where we wind up frustrated and irritated is that sometimes in our advocacy we forget what our goal was.

By the time we remember it, we have alienated the people who could help us implement it. You see, we have to remember the reality. Though institutional staff may view the world through its philosophical mirror of the mission statement – translated that means they are there to serve – operationally, staff handles things for the convenience of staff. It’s called human nature. That’s just the way we are. So we are not going to change the visiting hours so we have to work too much overtime or mess up the golf game or whatever. You have to negotiate that. I’m not going to do that voluntarily. And I’m saying to those of us advocates that the best way to do that is negotiation. Negotiation is the way to go.

When you negotiate you allow the person to get some benefit for himself. We will all operate better when we can answer, “What’s in it for me? Will it make my job easier or at least not add more work?” If you want an administrator to commit, and you want to test whether that administrator has committed to your cause, find out if they negotiated an advantage for their organization. If they didn’t, you can forget it. They are not going to do it.

Another reason I think we have problems with our advocacy is that we get caught up in the “poor souls” syndrome. We’re going to help the poor souls out. Then we get mad when they don’t act right. Another thing we do is become garbage cans for the offender and for his/her family. What do I mean by that? I mean that we let them drain-off on “ain’t it awful what so-and-so did to me,” and Lord knows they can tell you all day long. But, we don’t wind up that conversation with “what are you planning to do about it?” or “what do you suggest?” Now we don’t expect the offender who’s incarcerated, in the hole, to have a helluva lot he can do. But, he can do something. You can demand that little something that he can do. Otherwise, you lose respect for that person and that person loses respect for you. Dependency totally breeds disrespect. Another thing that we do is become “we know it alls.” We know how it should be done. I had an assemblyman who was having budget hearings. He wanted us to bring a real inmate to the hearings to tell him how to run the institutions.

So we brought several, at thousands of dollars of cost to you and me, as he wanted them from certain institutions. This meant they had to come double-guarded since we couldn’t walk them into the hearing room with chains on – I don’t like that anyway. The inmates had a lot to say. They told them that we could cut the budget by not having any corrections officers in the visiting room. When they left, I did suggest to the assemblyman, who was just about to take COs out of the visiting rooms, to look at what we found the last couple of Sundays in the visiting room. So they felt that the inmates had kinda had them. And I said no. They did exactly what they were supposed to do – protect their interest. What did you expect them to do? That’s what I mean when I say, “get into the other person’s point of view.” I think I did more for inmates with that particular group of men that evening than ever before, because I did not jump on the bandwagon of saying, “aren’t they terrible; they’re liars, they’re this.” Why not?

No COs in the visiting room would make 20 years go a lot faster. Families, this country is a democracy. The problem is, “one vote one voice” doesn’t get you very much. You have to organize. If you want to be relatives and relevant, you need to organize. Even if it’s loose fashion. Even if it’s like this. Somewhere along the line you need a common voice. Politicians listen to common voices. Especially if they’re talking vote. Inmates in the main don’t vote. But, as their families, you’re going to have to do that. Another thing I would suggest, if you want to strengthen family ties, is you get with the fact that you spend an inordinate amount of time on the offender, leaving your good kids to fend for themselves. I’ve seen it too often. There was a woman in my office the other day. She had wanted somebody to tell the truth and some body had told her I tell the truth. She was giving an attorney $100 a month. Her son is in prison for rape, robbery, and you name it. He’s doing fifteen years to life. He’s done seven years and she’s giving an attorney $100 a month to get him out. She has a daughter who was with her that day that’s struggling to go to engineering school, working two jobs. I sent that daughter out of the room. I said, ‘Are you out of your mind? Your son may get out in twenty years or so – forget seven. The lawyer is doing what he’s supposed to do. Take that $100 a month. Stop this girl from one of those backbreaking jobs she’s doing. If she gets to be an engineer, by the time he gets out, she can help him. But, if you alienate her, which you are doing-look at her face-while you spend every penny on this son, when he gets out what is she going to say? The hell with you. I got mine, you get yours.”

So families, be aware of that. Correction staff, we must frequently examine our commitment to provide service. Remember, being incarcerated is the punishment. We don’t have to add a little something. Each of us as individuals has the responsibility to offer opportunity for change. In all of my years, I have never heard an ex-offender say, “San Quentin was my turning point.” I have never heard an offender say, “My parole hearing was my turning point.” And I’ve never heard one say, “The probation department of Sacramento County, LA County, wherever, was my turning point.” I have never heard a person say that. What I have heard them say was that I met a person at San Quentin, I met a person at Friends Outside, I met a person while on parole, who influenced me, who helped me, who helped me see. So don’t hide behind overcrowding, lack of this, lack of that. You are the key. The person. So rededicate yourself. One more thing to correction staff: we’re going to have to accept the fact, at least in California, that prisons are going to be built. I finally found out what “over there” is, “way out there.” It is 100 miles from nothing. So, if that’s the case, don’t become unglued when some smart person decides to start a private, profit-making transportation system to prison. Even transport the prisoners. Uh oh. Those of us in private organizations as well as public agencies must learn that if we’re going to work as advocates we better get used to the label, “liberals,” “flakos,” and “pinkos.” That’s how the world looks on those of us who are advocates. We must take care that these labels do not give us the excuse to do nothing. We must not separate ourselves either from the offenders and their families or the power structure.

I’m not going into a discussion of the collapse of family values and all that. You know about all that. I do want to say, though, that you are responsible – all of us. We need to get in touch with ourselves. We need to know why we are doing this. We need to have a strong sense of reality. We need to operate on that reality of what is while we try to change what ought to be. We must learn to be comfortable with power. When you are comfortable with power, you don’t envy it so much. That’s what it is when you say, “they’re no good, etc.” What we’re saying is, “God, I wish it was me.” We must develop our skills in dealing with people. What I’ve been trying to say is that if we want change, this group has to help bring it about. What I said to you tonight is not new. You know it.

What I really hope I’ve done is help to open up your acceptance of diverse points of view. I’ve tried to help you get rid of your baggage. I know it’s comfortable, but you can lose it. Let’s see where the other persons are. The reason we need to do this, I think, Henry George summarizes very well in his book Social Problems: “Social progress makes the well-being of all more and more the business of each. It binds us all closer and closer together in bonds of which none of us can escape.” Therefore, we are the offenders. We are the family. We are the community. We must influence the power brokers. There is no tooth fairy.

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Luncheon Address – Sister Elaine Roulet

When one is invited to give a talk on prison work, invariably they want a horror story about prison. So before I begin my talk, I would like to tell you a true horror story. I was invited to speak at Auburn prison in New York State, which is a maximum security prison, and I got all dressed up. I wore a pink suit, and I wore pink shoes and a pink blouse. One would say I was in the pink. I went and I talked, and my talk was well received and I was happy. Invariably somebody says, ‘Do you just work with the Catholics?” I assured them that the Catholics never get in trouble. Our Puerto Rican brothers applauded and our Italian brothers gave me a standing ovation. When it was over, the Superintendent, knowing I was a real veteran of the system, gave me a tour of the prison. When I came back I really was horrified. You never get over the isolation, the alienation. It really does something to you.

When I got back to the office I was kind of visibly shaken by the whole thing, but I didn’t want him to know this. So, just to make small talk I said, “Sir, I can’t get over how respectful the men were to me.” He turned and he said to this vision in pink, “Now Sister, if you were young and attractive it’d be a different story.” I forgot the horror of the prison. I said to myself, “And this is on a good day.” I think all of you could identify with that experience. I’m happy to hear you laugh, because I believe that laughter is God’s favorite Earth sound. If I were to choose a time or a place to speak at this wonderful conference, it would be at mealtime, for I feel there is an intimacy, a gentleness, a humanness about eating which is so opposite the isolation, alienation. And I feel that this meal should be a public symbol of what we represent. A public sign that we are going to be compassionate. Mealtime also invites stories. And I feel that all of our lives are nothing else but stories of our personal journey into the heart of God. And so my talk will be stories…

There was a wise woman and she was wise because she always spoke to God and God spoke to her. The Bishop heard of this and became rather alarmed since everyone was running to the wise woman. He said to the wise woman, “Wise woman, I really don’t believe that God speaks to you. But, I’ll give you a chance to prove it. The next time God speaks to you, you have God tell you my innermost sins.” And being a Bishop he had many. And so, the Bishop said to the wise woman, “Well, wise woman, tell me, what did God say?” And she said, “God said to tell you he forgot them.” And that’s what we must do. We must forget a “cannot be done.” We must forget, “we tried that before but, it didn’t work.” We must forget, “oh, they’re better off without their families.” We must forget, ” that will never work here.” And we must remember it can be done, they are not better off without their families, and if we tried it once before and it didn’t work, it will work now. And that’s what we have to remember. There’s a little child at prison; her name is Harriet, and her mother will be at our prison for 75 years.

One day she came to visit me. I had a key ring and on the keyring it said, “miracles do happen.” And she said, “Sister Elaine, what does that say?” And I said, “It says miracles do happen.” I said, “Harriet, do you know what a miracle is?” She said, “Of course I do.” (She was 4 years old.) I said, “What’s a miracle?” And she said to me, “A miracle is gasp![gesture of surprise].” And theologically I don’t know anything better. And that’s what we have to do. We have to believe in miracles. Miracles are God’s popcorn in the movie of life. And we have to believe in miracles. I should like to share with you a true miracle story. Besides working at the Children’s Center, and that is a great privilege, I am also privileged to run houses called Providence Houses. They’re for homeless women and women from prison.

Now we have My Mother’s Houses where children go… when their mothers are in prison. And when they go to school they tell the teacher “I live at my mother’s house,” and that’s enough. The last house I opened was a very difficult house; it was a halfway house. At the same time, we were opening up another house in New Rochelle. Another Sister went to live in that house and I lived in the Lincoln Road House in Brooklyn alone. It was very difficult in the beginning. The Sister who was supposed to live with me came to see me one night and she said, “Elaine, this is not healthy, nor is it safe, nor is it holy to be living in this empty house.” And I said “You’re right.” I went to bed that night very, very depressed. In a sense, I really couldn’t do this.

The next morning I went to Bedford Hills. The phone rang and a man got on the phone and he said to me, “You don’t know me but, my name is Ron and I work for the division of probation. We have five carpenters who were just sentenced to community service, and I was wondering if you could use them.” It really was a miracle. These five men came like little elves and shoe-makers. They came every night and they painted and put the whole house together, and now we’re living in a very, very beautiful house. And so, we must believe in miracles. There was a wise woman and she was wise because she always spoke to God and God spoke to her. There were two teenagers in town, and the two teenagers said, “Let us fool this wise woman. Let us bring a bird to her and we’ll say to her, “Wise woman, is the bird alive or dead?” And if she says the bird’s alive we’ll kill it. If she says the bird is dead we’ll let it fly away.” And they found the wise woman and they said, “Tell us is this bird alive or dead?” And she said, “It’s in your hands.” And that’s it. The choice is in our hands. The choice to leave this conference and to take all that we’ve felt and heard and live and make it relive wherever we go is in our hands. Or the choice to say, “It was a nice conference but, it will never work where I live.” The choice is in our hands. I mention stories to you because stories are so important.

For some people that we work with and that we live with, the only Bible they will ever read will be our lives. So, our lives had better be worth reading. When I was a child I had a mother who was very, very proud because she never went up to school. She always believed that busybodies went to school. And she never went to mothers’ clubs or anything of that nature because she always believed that’s not where you’re supposed to go. And she never went to rectories to visit where the priests were because you just didn’t do those things. Now, when I was a child I always had colds and earaches and sniffles, until one day she said to me, “Elaine I’m going to bring you to the rectory.” And I was so surprised. She asked the priest to bless me and she gave him a dollar. Now I’m not quite sure what would’ve happened if she had given him five dollars. But the dollar certainly worked. There was something sad that no one ever told my mother that she could have blessed me. Today I bring to you a blessing as my gift. None of us can do anything alone in life. I have always received support and help.

None of us can do anything alone. None of us. The day we think we can do something alone is a sad day. In all my talks I speak about women giving life. The role of women in life, I say, is to give life. But, you can’t do it alone. You can pout alone; you can feel sorry for yourself alone, but you cannot give life alone. A lot of wonderful things have happened at Bedford Hills. A lot of wonderful things have happened at Providence House, and My Mother’s House. None of these were ever done alone. It was so much support, it was so much help, which is a public statement that you do nothing alone. So, my gift to you is to bless you.

I bless all of you and I hope that when you are in the `pink’ no one ever says to you what was said to me. I bless you with new hope. And I hope that this is the first of many, many conferences and that many wonderful things will happen. I bless you and hope that in your State you too can have the support I have. I bless you and I hope that you use laughter as God’s favorite earth sound. I bless you and I hope that you bring meals on wheels into prisons and that all you do is humane and compassionate things. I bless you and hope that all of you will do wonderful things. As I journey, I ask you to pray for me and bless me because I not only believe in the tooth fairy, I think I am the tooth fairy.

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Luncheon Address – Black Families and Correctional: Policies and Programs: A Dilemma and Challenge – Velma LaPoint, Ph.D.

I am indeed honored to be your luncheon speaker today at the First National Conference on the Family and Corrections. My topic is imperative at such a conference, given the disproportionate percentage of Black families involved in the criminal justice system, where Black individuals are both victims and perpetrators of crimes. I refer here to victims that are directly physically and psychologically harmed by criminal acts, as well as the families of these victims and the families of incarcerated persons. The disproportionate percentage of Black victims and perpetrators is a crisis and a dilemma. Numerous Black scholars, policy-makers, and practitioners are calling for national meetings of plans of action to address the causes, control, and prevention of crime among Black families and in Black communities.

There are four ways that the general theme of this conference has special significance to Black families that encounter the correctional system: Many scholars, policymakers, and practitioners have long recognized that both individuals and their families significantly influence and are influenced by many societal systems and sub-systems. Leading scientists have indicated that the kinds of institutional influences and support that Black families receive in areas of education, employment, health, and social well-being are related to the overall well-being of families. The high rate of crime among Black families is certainly an indicator that all is not well among Black families. That, perhaps, such rates reflect how poorly Black individuals and families are fairing in these systems as well as in the criminal justice system, where we know bias exists in areas of arrests, court proceedings, and incarceration.

As related to this conference, criminal justice and correctional policies and programs have generally been oriented toward the apprehension, arrest, adjudication, and detention of the individual without any real concern about the impact of these policies and procedures on the families of those persons who are involved in the correctional system. The person’s family life and general culture are ignored or minimized, especially in correctional policies and programs that affect Blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans, who comprise a disproportionate percentage of incarcerated persons. Relatedly, the roles of families in the lives of persons engulfed in the correctional system, as a network of support that receives and requires varying kinds of support from society, have generally been ignored or minimized. We have numerous examples in the areas of the need for effective childcare, education, and health. Members of certain social class and ethnic groups generally receive less prevention and treatment support.

The theme and title of this conference, which uses the words “The Family,” has particular relevance to Black families. I hope that the word was used only to refer to the family as a social institution and not to connotate a descriptive label with a particular meaning. Frequently, a given family type is projected to be the norm – typically, the image and life style of white middle class families. We need to recognize that our policies and programs could be inherently biased against families that are different due to ethnic and social class factors.

Given these introductory remarks, I will address five important areas as they relate to Black families and correctional policies and programs. First, I want to provide a brief overview of the experience of Black persons and their families with crime. The reason for this inclusion is that our definition and conceptualization of crime, among Black families in particular, relates to our response to crime in terms of the administration of justice, which includes correctional policies and programs. Included in this section will be information on victimization among Black families.

Issues here relate to correctional policies and programs. I share the perspective of many of my colleagues that we must begin to address the experiences of Black persons and families before their encounter with the criminal justice system. Many of those persons who come to be labeled perpetrators of crimes, especially the Black poor who fill our jails and prisons, have been the victims of crime themselves. That is, they have been victimized by policies and practices that have not prepared them to adequately cope with the requirements of society in areas of education, employment, health, overall self-esteem, and social competence, which plays a major role in determining one’s position in life. Second, I will provide an overview of the nature of correctional supervision for Black persons and their families. A major focus will be on the impact of incarceration on both the incarcerated and their families. Third, I will cite the causes of crime and how these relate to correctional policies and programs. Fourth, I will suggest some strategies that will challenge those who make, and can make, correctional policies and deliver correctional services.

The criminal justice system, of course, does play a role here. However, individuals, families, and communities play a role in setting the standards that shape, manage, punish, and correct behavior – both social and anti-social behavior. Fifth and relatedly, I will offer suggestions to families of both incarcerated and non-incarcerated persons, as well as family advocates, regardless of ethnicity, that they may find helpful in being of support for the family members involved in, or who may become involved in, the correctional system.

I concur with Ruth Rushen, who gave the keynote address last night, that we all have roles to play in shaping correctional policies which impact on incarcerated persons and their families. We can vote and lobby, which, in turn, does influence correctional policies and services.

I now turn my attention to crime among Black families and communities. It is important to cite victimization information in assessing the impact of crime among Black families especially since there is a disproportionate rate of Black-on-Black crime. Data show, for example, that Blacks have the highest victimization rate for rape, robbery, and assault. Blacks are more likely to be the victims of violent crimes than whites and most crimes of violence against Blacks are committed by Black offenders. Black males have a 1 in 21 chance of being murdered as compared to a 1 in 133 chance for the average American. The leading cause of death among Black males between the ages of 15 and 24 is homicide. About 42 per 100 Black males who die between the ages of 15 and 24 die from homicide. This compares with about 8 per 100 white males in the same group.

As indicated earlier, Black families are more likely to be victims of various policies which negatively impact on their quality of family life. Despite historical gains with the legal abolition of slavery and segregation, recent analysis of progress within the last 20 years still show Black individuals and families substantially behind their white counterparts in the areas of education, health, employment, housing, income, and other socio-economic indicators. Such negative indicators provide the breeding ground and the web of the evolution and the exacerbation of criminal acts. Black persons comprise about 12 percent of the U.S. population, yet the arrest rates for 1986 indicated that Black people are involved in 27 percent of all arrests reported to the FBI; 38 percent of all index crime arrests, as defined by the Uniform Crime Report; 47 percent of all violent crimes; and 30 percent of all property crimes. Arrests in 1986 for Black juveniles, who represent about 15 percent of this age group, were disproportionate to their percentage in the population. They represented 25 percent of those arrested, 55 percent of those arrested for violent crimes, 27 percent of those arrested for property crimes, and 30 percent of those arrested for all index crimes.

According to a recent report, almost three million persons were under correctional supervision in the U.S. – being either in jail, prison, probation, or parole. Black persons represented about 35 percent of those persons, which is about 3 times their number in the general population. About 31 percent of the 34,000 persons in Federal institutions are Black. About 46 percent of the 428,000 persons in State institutions are Black. Forty percent of all persons incarcerated in jails are Black. Sixty-one percent of all juveniles in public facilities are Black. Forty-two percent of the approximate 1,900 persons on death row are Black.

We all know the host of negative conditions of incarceration and how they do further harm to the person’s well-being. We can look at the lawsuits related to overcrowding and other inhumane living conditions, inadequate health services, and unequal treatment for women in jails and prisons. We know that families of incarcerated persons also experience the pain of having an incarcerated family member. They experience humiliation by some correctional persons; inadequate and inhumane visiting conditions where glass partitions separate family members and keep them from touching; and just the sheer pain and frustration of being separated from loved ones. At the same time, we know that for a few persons, their correctional supervision from probation to incarceration serves to teach them valuable lessons about living. Perhaps, for some, it takes the denial of basic human rights, inhumane living conditions and enough other negative influences to turn them around. Relatedly, too, we know that there are many positive correctional programs, committed and competent correctional personnel, and sensitive and caring volunteers who make a difference in the lives of incarcerated persons and their families.

We are going to have to do more in influencing our criminal justice correctional system by coming to grips with the causes of crimes. First, we must prevent Black persons and their families from becoming involved in the criminal justice and correctional system in the first place. Crime in Black communities appears to be directly related to the relative deprivation of Black families. Any sincere effort to deal with the crime problem must address problems of unemployment, underemployment, sub-standard housing, inadequate health care, physical deterioration of neighborhoods and communities, adolescent pregnancy, economic development, family deterioration, racism and discrimination, as well as a host of other social and economic ills. There is a need to promote and maximize opportunities for Black persons and their families, so that they can develop competence in areas of living like education, health, and employment. The development of pro-social behavior can be achieved and reinforced by persons and families that have the resources to do so, and through identification with positive role models and values within Black communities and society, generally. Second, there is a need for alternatives to incarceration, especially for non-violent persons and those that pose minimal risks to society. Thus, we need to continue the use of probation, retribution, and parolee community supervision.

Third, it is important to evaluate the ways in which correctional policies and services impact on those convicted of crimes, especially those of ethnic minority group status. This means examining the content of therapeutic health and nutrition, education, counseling, vocational, family, and parent-child development programs to determine their cultural relevance for the continuity with the cultures of Black and other ethnic group persons. Fourth, there is a need to maximize the cultural strengths of Black persons and to blend them with the teaching, therapeutic, and other program goals. For example, religion and other psychological, spiritual values have enabled many Black persons and families to survive the barriers of racial discrimination, slavery, legal segregation, and other forms of confinement historically and in the present. Fifth, there is a need to create detention centers that offer mandatory programs for literacy, vocational training, and alcohol and drug counseling. Sixth, there is a need for maximizing family communication between confined persons and their families.

Institutional policies and procedures need to be examined to determine how they negatively impact on the family’s ability to have meaningful contact with confined family members. Relatedly, I have serious reservations about residential programs for families where there is an attempt made to maintain family bonds. I cannot endorse any policy or procedure which attempts to institutionalize other family members or entire families within correctional systems, given the current conditions that exist in the overwhelming majority of correctional institutions. Black families in particular have born the brunt of negative institutional intervention and control in their lives from other human services systems. Correctional systems, generally, will have a similar impact at this time. Black families already have a “caste” like existence in society. Incarceration seems an expected outcome for some groups of Black persons. Do we reinforce this expectation by endorsing residential programs for families? I realize that specific groups like pregnant inmates and mothers with very young children have unique concerns. However, I am concerned that these programs may become the forerunners of those for which older children began living with parents, or whole families become connected within correctional institutions. I would like to see us develop and implement programs for high quality, intermittent, consistent visitation that can be used for opportunities for parent-child and other family bonding. Eighth, there is a need for correctional staff training to inform and sensitize them about the nature of family relationships, especially among Black families and other culturally diverse groups. Ninth, there’s a need for maximum input and feedback on correctional policies and programs from incarcerated persons and the families of incarcerated persons.

And what about strategies for families and family advocates? I must preface these strategies with the recognition that most families of incarcerated persons are hindered in their efforts to help themselves and their incarcerated member by three factors; low socioeconomic circumstances of poverty, ethnicity (frequently Black or Hispanic), and the stigmatizing label of being a prisoner family. These factors can serve to minimize the family’s motivation and strength to stay connected or reconnect with the incarcerated family member, work effectively with the criminal justice system, work effectively with other prisoner families or family advocate organizations, or work effectively with policymakers at various levels. In other words, we must recognize that these families are generally disenfranchised from the mainstream due to the factors of poverty, race ethnicity, and prisoner family status. Burnout exists before and during, as well as after, their advocacy efforts. Thus, families must attempt to empower themselves to become advocates for their family members and other families like themselves. Empowerment comes from developing a network of support. Families of incarcerated persons, as well as other family advocates, may find the following strategies helpful:

Support incarcerated family members through communication by writing, calling, or visiting. Of course, institutional policies and procedures dictate the nature of this communication. Seek professional counseling if disharmonious family relationships exist with the incarcerated family member. Often such negative family relationships existed prior to the incarceration. Certainly incarceration can exacerbate family problems. Network with other family members so as to organize your own support networks for transportation and legal information. There is power in working with groups. Network with organizations that serve families of incarcerated persons. Become involved in lobbying efforts. Network with organizations that promote family life, generally, especially those with stability, political clout, and public support. This includes churches and other community based programs that are family oriented in areas of health, education, and employment. Network with colleges and universities who can lend their expertise in working with families and assisting with various kinds of supportive functions. Professors are frequently involved in community service activities because of their own personal commitment as well as university required community service related to professional advancement. Network with policymakers at the local, State, and Federal levels. Frequently, individuals who have a cause can effectively organize and advance this cause if there is support from an individual policymaker.

In conclusion, Black families, indeed, pose a dilemma and challenge to those involved in correctional services and family advocacy. The problems of Black persons involved in crime and the criminal justice system indeed is a crisis and a dilemma for Black families and for those who are attempting to maximize family life for all persons. The challenge to the correctional field is to determine in what way ethnic, racial and class biases exist in policies and services. We must first recognize a host of conditions that contribute to a disproportionate percentage of Blacks being involved in crime and the criminal justice system, and address ways to prevent Black persons and families from becoming involved under correctional supervision and incarceration. Second, I have suggested a number of strategies that correctional policymakers and practitioners can employ for working more effectively with Black persons and families involved in the correctional system. Third, I have suggested some strategies for incarcerated persons, and their families, to use in working to create better policies and procedures.

It is only through working together, by making families and community our priority, that we will begin, and in some instances continue, to promote the well-being of individuals, families, communities, and, thus, society in general.

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Closing Address – Where Do We Go From Here? – Joseph D. Ossman

A few months ago, when Jim Mustin asked me to address the closing session of this conference, I thought that sounded like a pretty good idea. My task is to sum up the past three days. Normally, I do not include Biblical quotes when I talk, but looking at that task from today’s perspective reminds me of one particular paraphrase of Noah’s response to the Lord’s instructions regarding the flood, the ark, and the animals: “Right!” How do you sum up a miracle? Those of you who have been to San Francisco know that, like many other major cities, it has a serious parking problem.

I don’t recall the figures, but there are many more cars in San Francisco than there are parking spaces, and that doesn’t even count all the cars that commuters drive into the city every day. This means, of course, that a portion of the cars in San Franciso are always driving around looking for a place to park. Henny Youngman tells of walking down a San Francisco sidewalk and seeing a well-dressed man lying in the gutter. When asked if he needed help, the man replied, “No, but thank you very much. We just found this parking place, and I’m holding it while my wife goes out to buy a car.”

I share that story to illustrate the extent of the problems we’re addressing, and also the need for solutions other than more cars and more parking spaces. The story of the man lying in the parking place is part of an ad for BART, a regional mass transit system. Similarly, we need to be looking toward new systems, new ways of doing things. This conference itself is one new way of doing things. Yesterday, Sister Elaine Roulet told us to believe in miracles. I think this conference is a miracle. The problems we presume to address are just as overwhelming as parking in San Francisco, but they are of a much larger order of magnitude, because along with intractability they carry tragedy. Who can walk amidst the world of prisons and families and not be stunned by the brokenness of the human spirit that is all around you? Most of us carry some form of deeply held personal, philosophical, or spiritual ideal of peace, harmony, healing, and wholeness of human relationships.

In stark contrast, I know of few other aspects of modern society which are more characterized by brokenness and alienation. Contributing to it, is the brokenness of poverty, the brokenness of family violence, the brokenness of crime, the brokenness of the way we do criminal justice, and the brokenness of families separated by incarceration. And yet here we are, representing all of these elements, coming together to learn from each other. That’s a miracle. As we celebrate that miracle, however, we must not delude ourselves. We still face a rising tide. As the use of incarceration continues to grow, and more and more families are caught up in the tragedy for longer and longer periods of time, we must be both helping hands and prophetic voices. We know that family ties reduce the likelihood of future crime. We know that imprisonment is destructive of family ties. We must acknowledge and proclaim that a policy which promotes increased incarceration is an anti-family policy.

We must acknowledge and proclaim that a policy which builds prisons far away from where visitors live is an anti-family policy. And because we know that family ties reduce recidivism, we must acknowledge and proclaim that an anti-family policy is a pro-recidivism policy. I have some lasting images from this conference. One of them happened in a workshop Monday, when a prison Superintendent from Pennsylvania asked family members: “What recommendations do you have for things that we should include in our visiting program?” That is profound. The more we are willing to learn from each other, the less alienation and brokenness there will be.

But it’s easy to do that here in the context of this miracle conference. It will take commitment and courage to continue to do that tomorrow. So where do we go from here? As we try to carry some of this miracle back home, what do we say to the players in this continuing tragedy? Here are some suggestions: To family members: First of all, we salute you. You represent the most fundamental of human values. Determine yourself, be your own person. Be able to stand alone, and be willing to stand together. To prisoners: Don’t succumb to your alien environment. Reach out to your loved ones; your parents, your spouses, your children. Love, play, help, and be helped. Be ready to meet others halfway. To correctional staff: Recognize that every act of repression or denial, however necessary, dehumanizes yourselves as surely as it dehumanizes prisoners and their families. Offer healing to yourselves, to each other, and to those who are subject to your authority. To all: Resist the temptation to lose your souls. Look into the eyes of prisoners, of their spouses and children, and of correctional staff, and see yourselves. And, like the Superintendent from Pennsylvania, listen.

We’ve all learned a lot, done some fantastic networking, and gotten a lot of great ideas. Remember that research shows that you will keep what you use. Things that you learned here that you act on within 30 days, you will retain. If you don’t act within 30 days, you’ll forget it. So go home and begin to do the things which you have learned, and to be the new person you may have grown into. Tell your own story. You have none other to tell. And network. Whom do we have except each other?

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New York State Department of Correctional Services Family Services Programs – Marion L. Borum

It is a privilege to be present at this First National Conference on the Family and Corrections. I have been impressed with the workshop topics and the commitment expressed to improving the family ties of offenders. I must congratulate the conveners of the conference, especially Mr. Mustin, for a job well done. To have attracted such a large number of committed individuals to a first conference is indeed worthy of praise. The purpose of my addressing you today is to extend an invitation on behalf of the New York State Department of Correctional Services and its Commissioner, Thomas A. Coughlin III, to convene for the Second National Conference in New York at its capital city in Albany. New York State, I hope you have learned so far, has an abiding commitment to the family as an essential part of the correctional process.

New York, along with other States, has experienced tremendous growth in its prison population. Over the last three years we have added almost 10,700 bed spaces at a cost of 550 million dollars and, over the next eighteen months, we will add 7,000 spaces at a cost of 386 million dollars. This kind of expansion, as you can imagine, receives prominent attention in the media around the State, and well it should. An expenditure of about a billion dollars in public money in about five years should be scrutinized closely. But there is another story – that is what New York State is doing inside its prisons. How successful we are with this other, perhaps less tangible and sometimes less quantifiable, story may be pivotal in determining just how much more we will need to spend in the future to incarcerate felons. As you know, there is a popular contemporary debate in the field of correction which focuses on the issue of whether or not rehabilitative treatment within the prison setting has fulfilled its promise or has instead reached its demise. The arguments on both sides of the issue are well known. We in New York State believe that well planned and implemented academic, vocational, and drug and alcohol ttreatment programs continue to be important. But, in my view, no program is more important than maximizing the maintenance of family ties. All of our research points to the relative success of our family programs.

Some years ago, Holt and Miller in their work, Explorations In Inmate Family Relations, stated: “No restriction should be allowed to remain whose only reason is the limited of space. Space must be found. If some new correctional technique were invented tomorrow whose effectiveness were equal to family contacts, there would be a rush to find space for implementation even if it meant using the Warden’s Office.”While we have not begun to use the Warden’s office, we have made great strides. As an indication of the genuineness of our efforts, allow me to briefly describe some of the strides we have made:

At most of our facilities, visiting hours are flexible enough to enable friends, relatives and family members to manage trips to the institutions without significant disruptions in their lives. Family education and relationship programs are provided. Some are contracted to outside agencies such as the Single Parent Resource Center, The Osborne Association, Catholic Charities, Planned Parenthood and Family Dynamics Inc. These programs involve not only inmates, but their spouses and other family members. They have added significantly to our efforts and have further humanized the system. Our Family Reunion Program allows extended (36-44 hour) visits by immediate family members in residential settings located on facility grounds. This program began at one facility in 1976. It now serves ten facilities and with the new budget year, three more facilities will be added. Family service personnel have been placed at fourteen facilities, which experience frequent visiting, for the purpose of upgrading the physical and social environment of visiting rooms. This includes the provision of areas to meet the special needs of infants and children visitors.

Our free bus program, initiated in 1973, provides transportation from New York City to correctional facilities across the State. For a number of years, we have also provided opportunities for families to be together through a multitude of special events and family picnics. As I’ve stated, this is a brief review of our Family Services Programs. You have heard and will hear more from Sister Elaine Roulet about the Children’s Center at Bedford Hills. We are proud of this program. In many respects, it has been a flagship. I am reminded that not so long ago a Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court said: “We take on a burden when we put a man behind walls and that burden is to give him a chance to change. If we deny him that, we deny his status as a human being and to deny that is to diminish our own humanity and plant the seeds of future anguish for ourselves.”

There is much more to be done. The task is difficult and the challenge is urgent. Conferences such as this give inspiration and allow us to persevere. We eagerly await the Conference in New York and the opportunity to build upon this one. Recall the message given to a small community 2,000 years ago: “Grow not weary of well doing, for if he faint not, he shall reap in due season.”

Thank you.

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Salvation Army Correctional Services Family Programs – Major C. David Howell

The Salvation Army Correctional Services Department has been a leader and innovator in the provision of programs and services that meet the needs of individuals subject to the Canadian criminal justice system. The experience gained through on-going contact with offenders, victims and family members provides convincing evidence of the need to seek out new and productive initiatives that concurrently improve the effectiveness of the criminal justice system and respond to individuals in need. In Ottawa, the Salvation Army Correctional Services Department has determined the need to move into an area of programming which revolves around the vital, central issue of “attitudes” – how individuals perceive themselves and respond to others. When examining the needs and problems of those involved in the criminal justice system – whether the individual be an accused, an offender, a victim or a family member – it can be reasonably stated that many problems center around an attitudinal issue.

The Salvation Army Correctional Services Department believes that broad, long-term rehabilitation and successful integration with society can rarely occur for individuals who have been exposed to the process of justice or corrections without the elimination of unsuitable attitudes and/or the development of currently deficient attitudes and values which meet the standards of a law-abiding society. One of the key elements of an individual’s attitudes pertains to the relationships that the individual develops and maintains. The Salvation Army Correctional Services Department believes that, particularly within the federal corrections system, the maintenance of family relationships is imperative to the long-term potential for successful rehabilitation and re-integration. The positive rehabilitative and re-integration process, which can be developed through the formulation of positive relationships between offenders and family members and through the generation of attitudes which coincide with the norms of a law-abiding society, should be utilized to the fullest extent possible.

In Ottawa, we are currently developing programs to help meet these objectives and would suggest that the RELINK program effectively deals with many of the recognized needs of those who are involved in the criminal justice system and the distress encountered as these individuals attempt to cope with the complexities of the criminal justice system. The RELINK program is composed of four independent, yet interrelated components: Transportation – provides a means for weekly visits to federal institutions at a cost which is affordable to family members of inmates, thus permitting the development or continuation of meaningful family relationships. HOPE (Helping Organize Productive Experiences) – provides a women’s support group and one-to-one counseling which addresses the needs of women and children who are coping with the incarceration of a male, loved one. The Transportation and HOPE programs are currently operational with the limited resources of the Salvation Army. Expansion and projected needs can only be realized when funding sources become available. The other programs are in the development stage. Enrichment Retreat – provides an opportunity for couples to receive counseling in a non-custodial setting, thereby assisting in the preparation for re-integration into the community. Life Management Workshops – provides group and one-to-one counseling and education in issues related to individual attitudes and the development of positive cognitive skills.

Relink Program Ideology. Traditionally, programs aimed at re-integrating offenders into the community have focused on addressing practical needs such as employment, housing and addictions counseling. While programs of this nature are a valuable component of the re-integration process, we are of the opinion that they fall short of addressing the less tangible areas of concern an offender faces in leaving an institution. How often have the words “This time I’m going to make it” been spoken, only to be met by failure again? Is it possible that existing re-integrative efforts have failed to recognize and address the root of what it takes to “make it” on the outside? Is it possible, through community programming, to tap into the attitudes, values and perceptions that influence the offender’s ability to sustain relationships, maintain long-term employment, and develop a pro-social basis for decision making? In seeking to meet this objective, the Salvation Army Correctional Services Department in Ottawa is committed to programming that recognizes and values the pivotal role of relationships in community re-integration. The RELINK program is a natural response to this commitment. Through the Transportation program we are able to provide a practical but vital link between the inmate and family members, allowing for regular, personal contact. The HOPE program is aimed at promoting personal growth for family members while their loved one is incarcerated by way of encouraging an active role in the inmate experience, breaking down negative perceptions rooted in limited information, and emphasizing the potential of individuals to act as agents of change. The Enrichment Retreat program provides couples with an opportunity to meet in a neutral setting prior to the inmate’s release to the family home, strengthen marital ties, and take preliminary steps toward identifying and resolving potential conflicts.

Finally, the Life Management Workshops are established as a follow-up to the three preceding components by offering seminars to couples, families, and individuals on the development of pro-social perceptions of self and others within their environment.

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The Future of Family and Corrections in North America: A Special Interest Workshop – Debbie Smith and Creasie Finney Hairston, Ph.D.

The purpose of this special interest workshop was to identify the top priority challenges facing people who work in the family and corrections field and to find ways to meet those challenges. Several groups were formed 1) to identify common unsolved problems and 2) to generate solutions. Participants used a structured creative problem solving process to identify key policy and research issues and the types of support needed from Family and Corrections Network to effect change. The workshop was designed and presented by Georgeann Wilcoxson, a Charlottesville, Virginia, consultant and Jim Mustin, Executive Director, Family and Corrections Network. Although groups worked independently during the workshop, their recommendations reflect several general themes. They include the need for diversified funding, collective efforts, public education, sound research, and dissemination of information to relevant audiences. Goals, action ideas, and Family and Corrections Network support recommendations for eight key areas are presented.

GOAL: Develop a short and long term funding plan for implementing family and corrections goals and objectives.

A. Define a clear mission statement.
B. Identify funding sources.
C. Develop a marketing and sales presentation plan.
D. Lobby in the appropriate political arenas.
E. Have knowledge and expertise in grant writing.
F. Plan for diversified funding.
G. Conduct methodologically sound research and program evaluation findings.

A. Information on funding sources.
B. Assistance in grant writing.
C. Appropriate and practical lobbying.
D. Statistical information from research.
E. Evaluators for program plans and strategies.

GOAL: Create public and political awareness of the needs of families in corrections so as to implement specific programs, policies and practices at the local, State, and National levels.

A. Select a lobbyist and a coalition of constituents.
B. Unite voice of families of prisoners to vote.
C. Provide public education and initiate communication.
D. Conduct research to justify and build credibility.
E. Involve families and inmates in consultation.
F. Solicit legislative support.
G. Involve high school and college students.
H. Build relationships with Department of Corrections administration.

A. Build a national community justice coalition.
B. Disseminate “success stories.”
C. Obtain positive media attention.
D. Provide a clearing house of positive information and examples of how coalition bring in more money together rather than alone.
E. Challenge legislators to respond to the needs of families.
F. Undertake a mutual planning process involving all of the constituents.
G. Evaluate research data to support effectiveness.
H. Identify common goals/interests with people and organizations outside the criminal justice system.


GOAL: Develop the resources, including human, funding, planning, research, and evaluation tools, needed to move from a reactive to a proactive mode.

A. Human Resources
1. Network among clubs, churches, agencies.
a. Letters and phone calls to the above.
b. Speakers bureau to acquaint the above.
2. Get community service institutions and in community based groups.
3. Use radio/TV community calendar announcements as well as newspaper feature articles and ads.
4. Network among inmates, ex-offenders, and families of offenders via newsletters.
5. Provide volunteer training, including consciousness raising meetings and orientation.
B. Funding
1. Obtain grants from foundations and private individuals.
2. Conduct fund-raisers.
3. Lobby legislators.

A. Expand newsletter to include ideas that work, current research, etc.
B. Assist with development of videos, tapes, newspaper ads, etc.


GOAL: Obtain cooperation from corrections and the community.

A. Public education.
B. Discussion groups from all sides.
C. Support from persons with influence and power.
D. Consistent presence.
E. Family and/or offender involvement in the process of identifying needs.
F. Communicate goal compatibility.
G. Sensitivity to the importance of the interrelationship between the system and agencies.
H. Improve public relations skills.

A. Promote community and correctional interaction through education and advocacy.
B. Provide a speakers bureau.
C. Promote a network that fosters consistency in corrections rules and regulations.
D. Improve community and correctional awareness of the needs of families.


GOAL: Improve communication between inmates and their families and corrections staff.

A. Visitor handbook.
B. Inmate on Board of Directors for visiting.
C. Support groups for staff.
D. In-service training for staff.
E. Newsletters.
F. Communication skills training.
G. Visitor liaison council/committee.
H. Correctional staff community relations officers. I. Inmate liaison committees.
J. Social activities within facilities for family members and inmates.

A. Promote consistency in visiting policies.
B. Promote the use of role reversal and role playing in training.
C. Suggest ways to reverse negative stereotyping and promote positive self-images.
D. Produce guidelines or manuals for correctional staff support groups.
E. Develop curriculum for in-service training.
F. Provide video, audio, or books on communication skills specific to the prison environment.
G. Publish information on this conference.
H. Publish a newsletter with input from corrections staff, inmates, families, and service/support groups.


GOAL: Change the focus toward a collective responsibility for the needs of the community. Take the focus off the offender by educating the public, legislatures, and courts.

A. Research family needs and accumulate accurate information for persons willing to lobby and/or help.
B. Issue public service messages.
C. Produce a documentary on families and their needs.
D. Write proposals based on research with accurate views from family members.
E. Use the media.
F. Diffuse the stigma associated with being the family or friend of an offender.
G. Enlist influential people who are empathetic or involved.

A. Provide a databank of contacts, resources, and experts, including working/not-working programs.
B. Provide information on programs of alternatives to incarceration programs.
C. Provide positive audio/visual materials and support public service messages.
D. Communicate FCN to universities, legislatures, communities, institutions, and friends.
E. Provide a research and resource database on institutions and programs.

GOAL: Increase family participation in the advocacy/lobbying process by reducing fear of retaliation.

ACTION IDEAS: A. Distribute self-help materials to families and offenders.
B. Establish a network of support through communication with like groups through the country.
C. Foster a relationship with community and support organizations sympathetic to the plight of families.
E. Develop a non-adverse forum through which families can increase understanding of their particular needs.
F. Reduce the fear of retaliation by enhancing families knowledge of the rules and regulations that govern correctional systems.

A. Make videos free of charge to families of offender organizations.
B. Help identify resources and like-minded groups and individuals in local communities.
C. Provide training in advocacy in order to allow families better control of their own lives and the lives of their incarcerated loved ones.
D. Provide the mechanism for those committed to an incarcerated person to speak out without the threat of retaliation against them or their imprisoned relative.
E. Understand and respect families’ fear of retribution.

GOAL: Conduct and disseminate the results of research on the family and corrections.

A. Disseminate research report to libraries, professional organizations, service agencies, policy makers, educational institutions, etc.
B. Provide service organizations with research data which can be used to develop and improve programs and services.
C. Provide a means for ongoing contact among those who conduct research. Promote collaborative research efforts.
D. Provide consultation and technical assistance to agencies on program design, evaluation, needs assessment, etc.

A. Publish and disseminate family and corrections conference proceedings.
B. Produce a newsletter that includes a regular report on research resources and activities.
C. Publish a research directory.

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Current Views of Inmate Visiting – Lawrence A. Bennett, Ph.D.

While there seems to be an acceptance of the value of family ties and visits with inmates (Holt and Miller, 1972), there is a dearth of information about either what is going on in the prisons across the United States or what correctional administrators think about inmate visiting. To obtain an estimate of what’s currently happening in the field, all fifty states, four U.S. territories, the Federal Bureau of Prisons and the District of Columbia were surveyed.

Background Literature
A current review of the literature produced results very similar to the findings of past investigators; namely, there are very few studies available about inmate visits and the relationships of such visits to institutional adjustment, program participation, continuation of the marriage or general post-institutional adjustment. Most articles available tend to be descriptive and deal with either the assumed positive effects of visiting on inmate adjustment (e.g., Morris, 1965; Cobean and Power, 1978; Fox, 1981), the problems of the suffering of the family as the result of incarceration of the male breadwinner (e.g., Brodsky, 1975; Schneller, 1975, Hinds, 1981), or the difficulties encountered by families in obtaining services, especially visiting assistance (e.g., Fishman and Cassin, 1981). A now famous study by Holt and Miller (1972) found that those who consistently received visits from relatives or friends tended to have a more favorable parole outcome. In fact, based on outcome during the first year following release, six times as many prisoners who had no visitors had failed, as compared to those who had frequent visits from at least three different relatives or friends.

Similar findings had been reported earlier by Glaser (1964), which indicated a parole success rate of 74 percent for those with active and sustained visits from family, as compared to 43 percent for those without visits. Parole violation rates were inversely related to the number of family visits in a study of 17,000 men paroled over a 20 year period (Ohlin, 1954), with the parole violation rate of 66 percent for those with no visits, compared with 26 percent for those who had 2 or 3 visits per month. All of these studies suggest a strong relationship between no visits and poor post-institutional adjustment, but while showing a consistent trend, still only depict a correlational relationship. Causality cannot be determined from these studies. However, the work of “M-2” presents somewhat stronger evidence, because they approached the problem with the predictive hypothesis that providing visitors would have a positive impact. They started with the question, “Can anything be done about visits for those who would ordinarily not receive any?” “M-2” sponsors seemed to think so. Over a number of years, that organization has managed a program of recruiting and training volunteers to match with inmates who have limited social ties. In the most recent study of their program (EMT, 1987), 622 inmates released to parole in California between July 1983 and June 1985 were evaluated at the 6- ,12- and 24-month follow-up periods.

At each follow-up period, the relationship between some visits vs. none and parole success was statistically significant. In addition, it was found that the number of visits played a vital role (at 12 months, for example, 68.5 percent of those who had received 12 or more visits had satisfactory outcomes, as compared to 38.7 percent for those who had received no visits). Thus, it seems clear that there is a strong relationship between visits and parole outcome and between the degree of contact and parole success.

Conjugal or Private Family Visiting

The attitudes about conjugal visiting exhibit some strange turns. The positive view of such programs was early presented by Hopper (1969), while Johns (1971) felt that even the positive attitudes would not result in action, and outlines the reasons for his belief. These include: 1) the negative attitudes of inmates who would be unable to participate; 2) the lack of available facilities (which are not likely to be made available); 3) the severity problems of administration especially regarding security, abuse of power, and common law relationships; 4) the lack of strong administrative support; 5) the sexual nature of conjugal visits (not in tune with the culture of the times – too degrading for the wife); and 6) possible additional children born to “inadequate families”, requiring support from public welfare. Balough surveyed 52 wardens (1964) and found that only 13 percent approved. Shortly thereafter, Vedder and Kind (1965) found nearly twice the percentage of positive responses from 49 directors of state or federal correctional operations. In terms of studies of level of activity in this area, little objective information is available, and is quite dated (Markely, 1972; Burstein, 1977). Hayner (1972) reported that at the time of his contact, two jurisdictions had operational private family visiting programs, with two others in the planning stage. More recently, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (1981) investigated private family visiting via a task force. They looked at the operation of such programs in Minnesota, New York and California. They felt the program, despite the statements about the family, placed too great an emphasis on sex and failed to serve long termers, and that a furlough program would serve to meet the needs of those serving short periods of incarceration. The final recommendation from that effort stated that private family visiting not replace nor supplement the home furlough of the Bureau, but suggested that family visiting might be tested on a well researched basis for those serving longer periods in prison.

The findings presented here are based upon responses from 56 jurisdictions representing some 895 institutions. A 100 percent return was achieved for the survey, although a few call-backs were required for a few participants. Questionnaires were completed by directors of corrections in only a few cases; most were completed by central office staff members. Thus, attitudinal measures must be accepted with the assumption that subordinates completing the questionnaire reflect in a general way the values of departmental policies.

Importance of Inmate Visiting
Respondents were asked to rate their view of the importance of inmate visiting. Of the 54 responding to the item scaled from 1 to 10 (10 being the highest), the ratings ranged from 5 through 10 with the median and mode at 10, with a mean of slightly over 9. Judging by the manner in which two respondents marked their questionnaire, some seemed to want to rate visiting at about 12 on a scale from 1 to 10. Thus, it would appear that most departments of corrections place a high value on inmate visiting.

Attitudes Toward Private Family Visiting

Few respondents from jurisdictions that did not have private family visiting indicated any interest in exploring the development. Only one jurisdiction without a program expressed positive interest, and that was an organization that had proposed a plan for the legislature, but the issue was not pushed for budgetary reasons. Each of the eight jurisdictions that had an operational program were asked to react to a list of specific gains that might be derived from the program. The item most endorsed were, “Improve inmate morale and attitude” and “Reduce disciplinary problems,” with seven positive responses. These were closely followed by, “Better participation in institutional programs” and “More positive planning for parole,” with five and four endorsements. Only one jurisdiction reported the view that Private Family Visiting might reduce homosexuality, while two departments indicated that they felt that such a program would strengthen family ties and result in fewer sexual assaults.

The Number and Nature of Private Family Visiting Programs

Eight jurisdictions have a program of private family visiting somewhere in their department. “Private family visiting” as used here, was defined as a man and a woman being alone with their family for a period of time, usually including overnight. It includes conjugal visits, but might also include, in addition to children, other significant family members such as parents, aunts and uncles, etc. The level reported marks a major expansion over the level of a few years ago (some of these programs are in early start-up phases), but falls considerably below the level suggested by the information in the Directory published by the American Correctional Association (1987). From a quick review of that document, one would conclude that 18 jurisdictions (16 states and 2 territories) had private family visits in at least one of their adult institutions. The difference would seem to be related to definitions of the program. Even with the seeming clarity of the definition presented above, there were some ambiguous responses. Historically, two programs existed prior to 1970, three came into operation during the 1970-1980 decade, and three have been initiated since 1980.

In all, some 43 correctional institutions seem to be involved. The number of visits during 1986 varied from an estimate of approximately 100 for one department to over 40,000 visits for another jurisdiction. Most seem to group in the 3,000-5,000 range, with the most typical response being around 3,000. Organizationally, most programs place the responsibility at the institutional level and under treatment programs. One jurisdiction has the operation centralized under the jurisdiction of the religious department, which may be valuable in ameliorating any negative public reactions to the program. Most programs are now a part of regular state budget appropriations, although some were initiated with donations. Currently, only two jurisdictions are heavily dependent on donations, and one of those receives some budgetary support.

One jurisdiction supports its program by charging a nominal rent for the facilities used. The programs have not been without their problems. In responding to a check-list of possible problems, jurisdictions indicate that problems encountered have arranged from drugs and other contraband to falsification of records (each indicated by four jurisdictions). One jurisdiction indicated no problems, one indicated escape problems, and one jurisdiction with more extensive experience reported, “All of the above.” Apparently, these problems were appropriately dealt with through administrative and procedural adjustments, as all presently active programs indicate a continuous operation since initiation.

Discussion and Conclusions
Inmate visiting continues to be of special concern to the correctional field, with almost all respondents rating this program at the high end of a value scale. Reflecting this commitment, the vast majority of the jurisdictions, as noted in a earlier report (Bennett,1987), have managed to maintain a fairly high level of support for inmate visiting, with length of time per week available for visits remaining the same or increasing in a vast majority of the jurisdictions responding. This was achieved despite tight budgets and ever increasing prison populations. Along similar lines, most of the jurisdictions were able to increase the number of visits per month allowable per inmate over 1980 levels. However, since only 70 percent of the correctional systems were able to increase the space available for visiting at a pace matching the increase in inmate populations, one can only speculate that the increased number of visits are taking place in a somewhat more cramped situation. Support for this view is provided by the finding that of the 17 jurisdictions unable to keep up with space demands, 14 (82%) managed to maintain 1980 levels of length and frequency of visits.

The attitude toward conjugal or private family visiting is very positive for those who have operational programs, but quite unaccepting by those without programs. The growth of such programs has been slow but steady, with programs operational in only two jurisdictions prior to 1970, increasing to eight at the present time – an operational program being defined as a jurisdiction within which at least one institution has a program involving private family visiting. Despite the many reasons put forth as to why such programs cannot work (see for example Johns, 1971), those jurisdictions with programs seem to feel the values far outweigh the problems and inconveniences of such efforts. However, given the lack of interest on the part of those not participating it seems doubtful that the concept will expand rapidly beyond its present level.

American Correctional Association. 1987 1987 Directory. College Park, Maryland: American Correctional Association.
Balough, Joseph K. 1964 “Conjugal visitations in prison: A sociological perspective.” Federal Probation 28:52-58.
Bennett, Lawrence A. 1987 “What has happened to prison visiting? Current use of a rehabilitative tool.” Paper presented at the annual meeting, American Society of Criminology, Montreal, Canada.
Brodsky, Stanley. 1975 Friends and Families of Men in Prison. Lexington, Massachusetts: Heath.
Burstein, Jules Q. 1977 Conjugal Visits in Prison. Lexington, Massachusetts: Heath.
Cobean, S. C. and P. W. Power. 1978 “Role of the family in the rehabilitation of the offender.” International Journal of Offender Therapy 22:22-28.
EMT Associates. 1987 Evaluation of the M-2 Sponsors Program: Final Report. Sacramento, California: EMT Associates.
Fishman, Susan H. and Candice J. M. Cassin. 1981 Service for Families of Offenders: An Overview. Washington, D.C.: National Institute of Corrections.
Fox, Greer L. 1981 “The family and the ex-offender: Potential for rehabilitation.” In Susan Martin et. al. (eds.), New Directions in the Rehabilitation of Criminal Offenders. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
Glaser, Daniel. 1964 The Effectiveness of a Prison Parole System. New York: Bobbs, Merrill.
Hayner, Normal S. 1972 “Attitudes toward conjugal visits for prisoners.” Federal Probation 36:43-49.
Hinds, L. S. 1981 “Impact of incarceration on low-income families.” Journal of Offender Counseling Services and Rehabilitation 5:5-12.
Holt, Norman and Donald Miller. 1972 Explorations in Inmate-Family Relations. Sacramento, California: Department of Corrections Research Division.
Hopper, C. 1969 “Sex in prison: The Mississippi experiment.” In Conjugal Visiting. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
Johns, D. R. 1971 “Alternatives to conjugal visiting.” Federal Probation 35:48-52.
Markley, C. 1973 “Furlough programs and conjugal visiting in adult correctional institutions.” Federal Probation 36:19-26.
Morris, P. 1965 Prisoners and Their Families. New York: Hart Publishing Co.
Ohlin, Lloyd E. 1954 “The stability and validity of parole experience tables.” Doctoral dissertation, University of Chicago.
Schneller, D. P. 1976 Prisoner’s Family – A Study of the Effects of Imprisonment on the Family of Prisoners. San Francisco: R & E Research Associates.
Vedder, C. and P. Kind. 1965 Problems of Homosexuality in Corrections Chicago: Charles Thomas.
U.S. Department of Justice Federal Prison System. 1981 Task Force Report on Family Visitation. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

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Regulating Parent-Child Communication in Correctional Settings – Creasie Finney Hairston, Ph.D., & Peg McCartt Hess, Ph.D.*

*The authors acknowledge the assistance of Roger Hershberger in data processing and analysis.

The maintenance of prisoner-family ties and parent-child bonds is increasingly becoming recognized as an important corrections and social services objective (Holt & Miller, 1970; Howser & McDonald, 1982; Leclair, 1978). Research has demonstrated the importance of frequent visiting between separated parents and their children to the well-being of parents and children and to the eventual reunification of separated families (Fanshel & Shinn, 1978; Greif, 1979; Hess, 1987; Lanier, 1987, and Wallerstein, 1983). Parenting programs and children’s centers are being established in correctional settings, reflecting the emerging interest in prisoner-family ties (Adalist-Estrin, 1986; Brozan, 1986; Hairston & Lockett, 1987). Despite the recognition of the importance of parent-child communication in correctional settings, there has been no systematic review of current policies regulating such communications. Prisoner-family communication policies demonstrate, however, the value states place on the maintenance of prisoners’ family relationships and on parent-child contact.

Policies provide the context for visiting practices and procedures in individual institutions and provide guidance for the allocation of resources, such as staff and space, for visiting. They inhibit or facilitate the development of family programs in institutions and the ability of private agencies to serve the prison population.

Policies, in addition, provide clarity for parents, children, and children’s caretakers concerning visiting eligibility, conditions, and purposes. It is, therefore, important to examine the content of visiting policies nationally in order to identify existing patterns, assess variations from established standards, and determine whether policies support innovative program efforts. This paper summarizes the results of a 1988 national survey of state policies governing parent-child communication in correctional settings. Information covers the eligibility requirements for children visiting parents in prison, the accessibility of visiting to children and other family members, and the prison visiting environment.

We requested a copy of all policies governing family communications generally and parent-child communications specifically in correctional institutions from the Commissioner of Corrections in each of the fifty states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. Four states (Connecticut, Iowa, Maryland, and Texas) failed to provide any policy information. Idaho, Kentucky, and Michigan sent policies specific to only one aspect of communication, such as furloughs or telephones. Two states (Montana, West Virginia) sent policies for a specific institution, rather than state-wide policy directives. The policies obtained from the remaining 41 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands (44 jurisdictions) form the basis of these findings. Throughout the report the term “states” is synonymous with jurisdictions.

Few state policies directly address parent-chiid relationships. Most states, however, have regulations specific to children, and all have policy statements which regulate contacts between prisoners and families. The following aspects of parent-child visits are covered by state policies: 1) visiting eligibility, 29 states; 2) frequency of visits, 28 states; 3) length of visits, 30 states; 4) visit schedules, 32 states; and 5) supervision/activity during visits, 35 states.

The most common eligibility requirement for children visiting an inmate is that they be accompanied by an adult. Table 1 indicates the ages for which a child visitor must be accompanied and the adult who must accompany the child. As can be seen by viewing Table 1, the age for which children must be accompanied varies considerably. The stipulation that children under age 18 must be accompanied by an adult is the most prevalent age requirement and is found in 16 state policies. Fourteen states permit children younger than 18, however, to visit unaccompanied. Under 17, under 16, and under 12 are the ages for which accompanying adults are specified by state policy.

Table 1

Child’s Age Requiring No.of States with
Accompanying Person* Policy Requirement
Under 18 must be accompanied 16
Under 17 must be accompanied 2
Under 16 must be accompanied 6
Under 12 must be accompanied 4
Children’s age not specified 2

Accompanying Person Specified As**
Person on visiting list 15
Child’s parent or legal guardian 10
Inmate’s adult relative 5
“Responsible” adult 6
Adult not defined 3

*States may have more than one age requirement given.
**States may specify adults in more than one category.

Variations also exist regarding who must accompany children to visits. Ten states require that the child be accompanied by his or her custodial parent or legal guardian. Fifteen states require only that the accompanying adult be on the inmate’s approved visiting list. Six state policies refer simply to a responsible adult. Other eligibility requirements governing children’s visits include: child’s custodial parent or legal guardian must give approval for the child’s visit (16 states); the child must be on the inmate’s approved visiting list (13 states); and child must show positive identification (5 states).

Visit Schedule, Frequency and Length

Visiting accessibility is generally limited. In many states, no minimum standards for visiting accessibility are set, and relevant decisions are left to the discretion of the institutional administrator. In those states where standards are set, minimum, maximum, or absolute standards may be specified. Policy requirements regarding visiting schedules, frequency, and length are depicted in Tables 2, 3, and 4 respectively.
Sixteen states, or about one-half of those states with policy requirements regarding visiting schedules, leave these decisions to the discretion of the institution. All of the 16 states with specific standards, however, provide for visiting on weekends. A few permit some combination of weekends with holidays, evenings, or weekdays. Table 2 provides a summary of the number of states adhering to different types of visiting schedules.

Table 2

Times/Days No. of States with
Policy Requirements
Discretion of institution* 16
Weekends only 3
Weekends and holidays only 3
Weekdays and weekends only 2
Weekends, weekdays, and evenings (not holidays) 1
Weekdays, weekends, holidays (no evenings) 2
Weekends or evenings or both (no days, holidays) 1
Weekdays, weekends, evenings and holidays 4

*Phrases used include based on number of visitors, size of visiting area, and security considerations; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays will be emphasized; depends on time, space, and security; permitted at reasonable times.

Policies governing the frequency with which inmates may have visits vary considerably from state to state. The most prevalent pattern is to leave this area of policy to the discretion of the institution. As indicated in Table 3, 17 states give institutions discretion over visiting frequency. Sixteen states fail to provide policy directives regarding visiting frequency. Among those that set specific standards, there is no commonly accepted visiting frequency. An inmate may be permitted as few as two visits per month to as many as six per week.

Table 3

Visit Frequency No. of States with
Policy Requirements
Discretion of institution* 17
1 per week 3
2 per week 4
2 per month 2
6 per week 1
4 or 2 per month by inmate
classification 1
No stated policy 16

*Phrases used include limitations will be imposed only
to avoid chronic overcrowding; established consistent
with resources available; limited only as necessary to
accommodate all visitors.

The length of the visit is also an area that is left to the discretion of the institution or is not addressed as a policy issue. Among those states which have policies, the length of a visit is sometimes restricted to as little as one hour. Twelve states specifically give each institution the authority to set visiting lengths, while 14 fail to address the issue. Seven states (Alaska, California, Colorado, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee and Washington) identify special or extended visits for children and other family members. Data on visiting length are displayed in Table 4.

Table 4

Visit Length No. of States with
Policy Requirement
Discretion of institution* 12
Specified maximum or minimum length:
1 hour minimum 3
4 hours per week 2
1.5 hours maximum 2
2 hours per week 1
1 hour maximum 1
3 hours 1
Extended/overnight 1
Special or extended visits (Alaska, California,
Colorado, Mississippi,
New York, Tennessee,
No stated policy 14

*Phrases used include, for example, limited only as necessary to accommodate all visitors; each facility shall develop procedures; limited only by institutional schedules, space, and personnel constraints.

Visiting Environment

Regulations governing the visiting environment focus primarily on the type of contact or activity permitted during the visit. Thirty-five states have policy directives in this area, but only three states (Missouri, New York and South Carolina) provide, as a matter of policy, activity centers or areas for children while visiting. A few states, such as Hawaii, Tennessee, Maine, and New York identify the need for an informal, relaxed visiting atmosphere and permit socially acceptable physical contact. Other states, including Virginia and Nebraska, restrict physical touching to a handshake, embrace or kiss at the beginning and end of the visit. Although children are not specifically included in most statements that restrict physical contact such as hugging and holding, neither are they excluded from them. Six states do indicate, however, that small children may sit on an imnate’s lap. Children are mentioned in 18 state policies governing prison visiting rooms. In most instances, the focus is on the adult visitor’s or inmate’s responsibility for supervising children and controlling their behavior. In at least four states, failure to control children’s behavior is reason for termination of the visit.

Parent-child relationships are rare state corrections policies. The data, furthermore, suggest that policies governing visiting are seldom developed with attention to the special needs of children, the importance of parent-child attachments, or the nature of complex family networks. For example, frequent visiting between separated parents and children has been consistently demonstrated to be a major factor in the well-being of parents and children during a separation, in the reunification of separated families, and in decreased recidivism of inmates. Corrections policies, however, severely restrict a child’s visiting accessibility.

The frequency with which a child may visit a parent is limited, as is the length of time the two may spend together. The identification of an adult who may have little or no interest in the inmate as the sole source of approval for the child’s visit or as the only adult who may accompany the child on the visit further restricts a child’s access to an incarcerated parent. The restrictions placed on social interactions between parents and children during visits and the focus on discipline and control of children without provision of child-centered activities further serve as barriers to the strengthening and maintenance of parent-child attachments.

The lack of attention to minimum standards and expectations for parent-child contact suggests that family communication is not valued, and that the rights of neither inmates nor children and families are respected. Vague discretionary directives can lead to inattention to parent-child communication, inadequate allocation of resources for visiting, and serious inconsistencies in the treatment of inmates and their families. These data indicate a wide variation in policy, broad discretion regarding visit practice, and severe restrictions to access. Overall, they reflect a system-wide problem with serious implications for family oriented programs. Without greater vision and direction at the highest policy levels, the goals of strengthening family relationships during imprisonment, reunifying families upon release, and reducing recidivism remain largely illusory.

Adalist-Estrin, Ann. 1986 “Parenting…from behind bars.” FRC Report, Family Resource Coalition No. 1
Brozan, Nadine. 1986 “Prisoners learn how to be good fathers.” New York Times (September 29).
Fanshel, David and Eugene Shinn. 1978 Children in Foster Care: A Longitudinal Investigation. New York: Columbia University Press.
Greif, Judith. 1979 “Fathers, children, and joint custody.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 49:311-19.
Hairston, Creasie Finney and Patricia Lockett. 1987 “Parents in prison: New directions for social services.” Social Work 32:162-164.
Hess, Peg. 1987 “Parental visiting of children in foster care: Current knowledge and a research agenda.” Children and Youth Services Review 9:29-50.
Holt, Norman and Donald Miller. 1970 Explorations in Inmate Family Relationships. California: California Department of Corrections.
Howser, James F. and Donald MacDonald. 1982 “Maintaining family ties.” Corrections Today August:96-98.
Lanier, Charles. 1987 “Fathers in prison: A psychosocial exploration.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Montreal, Canada.
Leclair, Daniel P. 1978 “Home furlough program effects on rates of recidivism.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 5:249-259.
Wallerstein, Judith. 1983 “Children of divorce: The psychological tasks of the child.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 53:230-243.

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Prison Visitors: A Profile – Virginia V. Neto


Traditionally, criminal justice research has focused on offenders, on their keepers, and recently on victims of crime. Little attention has been paid to a class of secondary crime victims-prison visitors. The offender’s family and friends are affected not only by the incarceration of the offender but also by their own interaction with correctional institutions. As part of an evaluation of prison visitor centers in California, a sample of visitors was interviewed at three prisons. The data reveal the characteristics of prison visitors, their problems, and their unmet needs. The findings lead to recommendations to improve conditions for visitors.

The families and friends of prisoners have often been viewed by correctional workers as potential problems and possible risks for importing contraband or facilitating escapes. Yet many institutional staff acknowledge that a prisoner’s family and friends in the community may have a positive influence on the inmate’s behavior in prison as well as his later adjustment after release. A well-known California study supported this position (Holt and Miller, 1972). At about the same time, Catholic Social Services of Marin County (California) established The House at San Quentin, which offered visitors hospitality, transportation, and other needed services. Other organizations, such as Friends Outside, opened visitor centers at other prisons. To coordinate these efforts, Centerforce, a non-profit agency, was established.

At the time of our program evaluation, nine visitor centers were operating with Centerforce as the fiscal agent on contract with the California Department of Corrections. The prison population was about 27,000. Over the last five years the Centerforce network has expanded greatly because of four factors: 1) a great increase in the number of state prison commitments, 2) an increase in the length of prison sentences; 3) new prison construction; and 4) a law that requires every prison in the state to be served by a visitor center. In Spring 1988, there were 15 visitor centers serving more than 68,000 prisoners.


The study of Centerforce, which was funded by the San Francisco Foundation and the National Institute of Corrections, gave us the opportunity to conduct interviews with a systematic sampling of prison visitors. By design, we selected three prisons that differed in terms of geographic location, security level, community characteristics, and organizational structure of the visitor centers themselves. We assumed that, although policies are made at the state level, visiting practices are controlled at the institutional level. McMahon reported similar conclusions after an assessment of support services to inmates’ families in New York state (McMahon, 1987). Institutions within a state differ notably in their visiting policies and practices for any or all of the following reasons: security level of inmates, institutional climate, administrative philosophy, staffing patterns, location of the prison, and community involvement. How these factors influence visiting and visitors will become apparent in the discussion to follow. We will refer to the three institutions as San Quentin, Norco, and Susanville.
1) San Quentin, the well-known maximum security prison, we can justifiably label old, tough, strict, and inhospitable, but fortunately located in the San Francisco Bay Area.
2) The California Rehabilitation Center known as Norco is located in the “prison valley” of Southern California. It began as a therapeutic center for civil drug addict commitments. The administration building is a former art deco hotel on a hilltop overlooking the valley (when the smog permits). Male prisoners live in barracks at the foot of the hill.
3) The California Correctional Center at Susanville was a medium security institution in the mountains of Northern California, often isolated by heavy snowfall in the winter months.

At each site, two subsets of visitors were interviewed: 1) visitors who were standing in line to be processed, and 2) visitors who were using the services of the visitor center. Each visitor was interviewed only once. Items related to characteristics of the visitors were identical on both questionnaires. Visitors at the centers were asked additional questions regarding the quantity and quality of services utilized. Each site presented unique circumstances that restricted the length of the interview at the prison. The sheer volume of individuals being processed at San Quentin and Norco allowed only two to three minutes with each respondent. At Susanville, where the volume was substantially lower and waiting time was minimal, most visitors were more anxious to be processed than interviewed. In contrast, interviews conducted in the visitor centers were more relaxed, enabling respondents to be more reflective and critical in their comments.

A time to interview visitors was selected when visiting volume would be high and nothing atypical would be occurring, such as a holiday or inclement weather. Data were collected on a Saturday and a Sunday, during peak hours, at both the prisons and the centers. In San Quentin and Susanville, researchers stationed themselves at the first entry point. In San Quentin, this area was known as “the tunnel” or “in the tube,” a cramped, enclosed hallway where visitors lined up to wait their turn to check in and be searched. In Susanville, visitors walked into a roomy reception area with places to sit and wait. At Norco, visitors were interviewed inside the waiting room after they had been processed and were sitting at a table waiting for the inmates to appear.

Only one member of each visiting group was interviewed. A group was defined as all individuals who had come together to visit the same inmate. The spokesperson for the group was the person most closely related to the inmate, such as the wife or parent. In instances where there was a language problem, the spokesperson was that individual who could communicate most effectively in English. In every group where a father or a brother was present, an attempt was made to interview him. However, there were very few male visitors and, despite special efforts, most men were reluctant to be interviewed, usually deferring to a woman in the group.

In total, 315 visitors were interviewed – 151 at San Quentin, 114 at Norco, and 5O at Susanville. The data we are about to discuss represent the visitor most closely related to the inmate; the person who visits weekends and most likely has the most vested interest in the welfare of the inmate.

Visitor Characteristics
Nine out of ten visitors were women, usually the wife (42 percent), mother (14 percent), or girlfriend (11 percent) of an inmate. Even in the women’s unit at Norco, most visitors were also women. Respondents ranged in age from 15 to 80 – the average being 35 years. The most common age group tended to be late 20’s to early 30’s. At Susanville it was particularly evident that younger women (19-22) had relocated to that remote area in order to be closer to their spouses. Even at San Quentin, where inmates were somewhat older, visiting wives were consistently young. This observation raises several questions: Do wives tend to visit less the longer their spouse is incarcerated? Does the family unit dissolve over time? Do prison marriages involve younger women?

Four out of ten visitors made the trip alone. Another 40 percent came in groups of two or three. Many who did not travel alone were accompanied by children. Over half of the respondents said they “usually” or “sometimes” brought children with them. Of those children who were actually visiting at the time of our interviews, 56 percent were six years old or younger. Visitors cited various reasons for not bringing children, including costs of transportation and hotels, difficulty in handling children on the bus or in the visiting room, or reluctance to expose the children to the prison environment. Many gave reasons not directly related to the prison, such as the child’s not wanting to get up so early or having to go to school.

Visitor Profile
The emerging profile of the visitor is that of a young woman, living in the general area, driving a vehicle, alone or accompanied by a child between the ages of 1 and 9 years. She visits the prison a couple of times a week in order to see her husband. These young women revealed a strong sense of mission and purpose, namely, that of being with their loved ones, no matter what their hardships. Some had relocated to be closer to their husbands, and still others had traveled from institution to institution, resettling each time the inmate was transferred.

The Visiting Context
Context refers to the external and internal conditions which affect visiting. The external context refers to those conditions affecting the visitors before they actually reach the prison gates, such as distance from home and available means of transportation.

Getting there: For some visitors this is the major hurdle. The vast majority of visitors (70 percent) traveled by car. Given the economic status of many visitors, their cars were not always dependable, whether owned or borrowed. Public transportation usually meant a Greyhound bus that stopped a few miles or more away from the prison. Those prisons located in urban areas required the shortest trips. Over 60 percent of the visitors to San Quentin traveled 50 miles or less; over 80 percent of the Norco visitors traveled 150 miles or less – roughly two to three hours by car. In contrast, at Susanville, over half of the visitors traveled between 151 to 600 miles, and another 16 percent covered more than 600 miles. For example, an 80-year-old woman had spent 10 hours on a Greyhound bus in order to visit her son for a few hours.

Both distance and lack of a car reduce visitation. On a typical day, men whose families do not live near the institution are much less likely to have visitors, particularly in the case of Susanville, where the trip itself may take an entire day. Only in Susanville did the majority of visitors (64 percent) stay overnight. There, the logistics and the costs of transportation and overnight accommodations were especially problematic. Less than 10 percent of the visitors sought overnight accommodations at the other prisons. Frequency of visiting: As might be expected, visitors who travel shorter distances visit more frequently. Over half of all visitors to Norco and San Quentin came one to five times per week, compared to one-third of the visitors to Susanville. In addition to distance, roads to Susanville are often closed because of snow during the winter months. At the time of the study, Susanville was a short term institution, so relatives often realized that they would make only one trip during the inmate’s stay. As a consequence, Susanville had a much greater proportion of first-time visitors than the other prisons.

Internal Conditions

Internal variables refer to those features within the institution which may affect the visitor, the inmate, and the visit itself. Each prison has its own system of processing and clearance of visitors. At San Quentin and Norco, where the volume of visitors was very high, there were a number of issues which visitors identified as major concerns, namely, long waits, paper work mixups and physical searches. Waiting ranged from 30 minutes to several hours, contingent upon proper completion of paper work, sufficient documentation, and timely transfer of records from one prison to another. The metal detector at San Quentin was so sensitive that it required visitors to remove their shoes, jewelry, and any metal item in clothing. A woman wearing a metal underwire bra or a wedding band that cannot be removed from her finger would be denied visiting until the offending item was removed and she could pass satisfactorily through the metal detector. One elderly woman was asked to remove an orthopedic corset with metal stays before she was allowed entry. Several visitors to San Quentin identified the long walk from the first checkpoint to the second as a hardship, in particular during inclement weather since umbrellas, crutches, and walking canes are not allowed.

Inconsistent application of rules and regulations was a major concern of visitors to Norco. This may have been due to the fact that the visiting room was used as a training ground for new prison staff recruits. Typically, guards spent three months at the visiting room desk learning the procedures and then were transferred. Other visitors thought that rules varied, depending on the officer on duty. The visiting room itself has great impact on the quality of the visit. Overcrowding was a major concern of visitors at San Quentin and Norco. Others indicated that the vending machines were inadequate in the selection offered, lack of nutritional items, and high cost. This was a strong concern, since most persons visited all day and had to rely on the machines as the only source of food. Other visitors were concerned about the high noise level, smokiness, and unclean or inadequately supplied restrooms.

It is interesting to note that although the rules and regulations at San Quentin were far more rigid than at Norco, many more Norco visitors found the rules problematic. Visitors understand that rules and restrictions are necessary and are willing to accept and abide by such rules, but when the rules begin to appear arbitrary and inconsistent, visitors become frustrated. Long-time visitors may learn the rules only to have them change abruptly due to new administrative policies or a changing of the guards. It is this element of uncertainty, of not knowing if they will get to visit, that discourages many. About 5 percent of all visitors stated that prison staff caused problems. These persons found the attitudes of the officers to be dehumanizing and punitive, as if punishing the visitor for the inmate’s crime. Some women in inter-racial relationships felt that they were being harassed by white officers who disapproved of such relationships. Harassment can take various forms, such as selective enforcement of rules about “touching” in the visiting room. This attitude was voiced by one guard who stated that he did not like to see “ethnic” men touching white women.

Some visitors discussed problems related to bringing children, such as the lack of anything for children to do during the visiting time, especially since toys and books were not permitted. When asked about the problems they encountered in visiting, many visitors (32 percent) were unable to respond. In light of some of the obvious discomforts, such as noisy, smokey, and crowded rooms and lengthy waits, it amazed the researchers that visitors were not more vocal when given the opportunity to voice their complaints. Even when encouraged, they often seemed timid and hesitant. This type of response exemplifies not only the passivity and acceptance characteristic of many visitors, but perhaps an attitude that they, as relatives of inmates, must accept a certain amount of adversity and not make any trouble.

Services Used by Visitors

We must remember that these visitors were already being served by the Centerforce visitor centers. Nearly three-fourths of those interviewed had heard about the local center, and 72 percent of those were familiar with the kinds of services provided. Approximately half of all visitors surveyed were current or former recipients of services. Hospitality was a major component – providing both food and a place for visitors to wait before and after visiting. Supplying a change of clothes was an important service for visitors wearing jeans or “provocative” clothing, who would otherwise be refused a visit. The centers also provided information, referrals, and transportation.

Unmet Needs of Visitors
The visitor centers did not meet all of the visitors’ needs. Visitors wanted to see improvement in processing, in visiting conditions, rules and regulations, child care, and transporation. Clear informational brochures, updated information, and a toll-free hot-line would greatly improve the visitor’s understanding and facilitate visiting. First-time visitors, in particular, said that if they had known the rules before coming, it would have been much easier for all concerned. Prison staff saw it as the inmates’ responsibility to inform their families and friends about the rules, but the inmates tended to feel that they had enough to contend with in the daily madness of prison life without taking on that added responsibility.

Policy Implications

All parties – center directors, visitors, inmates, and prison staff – agreed on four major needs: reliable information, more efficient processing, expanded services for visitors, and improved communication. The first two have been overtaken by the incredible growth in the prison system, but the latter two have been and continue to be accomplished. The network of prison visitor centers has not only grown to keep pace with the prison expansion, but has also required each center to provide designated services, such as child care, transportation, information and referral. A model Visiting Liaison Committee at Susanville is being replicated at each site. The committee brings together staff from the prison, the visitor center, and inmates or visitors to discuss on-going policy and problems.

Centerforce has been successful in developing visitor centers which operate independently of but cooperatively with the Department of Corrections. The original grassroots model has been modified to provide a strong central agency, capable of meeting the professional needs of its own staff and of the visitors they serve, as well as working effectively with the Department. In states which are geographically smaller or less populous than California, the needs of visitors may differ. Each state must assess its own situation, but can use the California model as a starting place to provide the missing link between the visitor and the prison.


San CRC, Susan- Total2
Characteristics Ouentin Norco ville (n=315)
(n=151) (n=114) (n=50)
Female 87.4 86.8 84.0 87.3
Male 12.6 13.2 12.0 12.7
White 44.7 55.2 56.0 48.6
Black 35.3 22.9 20.0 27.6
Hispanic 16.7 28.6 20.0 20.6
Relation to Inmate
Wife 43.1 43.5 38.0 42.4
Girlfriend 10.9 9.6 16.0 11.3
Parent 15.3 13.9 30.0 17.2
Friend3 14.6 7.0 12.0 11.3

1 Combines all visitors interviewed at the prisons
and the centers.
2 Total number responding to questionnaire. Actual
number may vary slightly on a specific item.
3 Friend includes M-2 visitors.


San Quentin Norco Susanville
Inmate/Visitor Inmate/Visitor Inmate/Visitor
White 32.4 44.7 31.6 55.2 32.5 56.0
Black 40.7 35.3 32.2 22.9 35.3 20.0
Hispanic 24.1 16.7 24.3 28.6 30.1 20.0


Age San Norco Susanville Total
Quentin (n=146) (n=50) (n=340)
0-11 mos. 8.3 2.7 8.0 5.9
1-3 yrs. 27.8 28.0 32.0 28.5
4-6 yrs. 21.5 20.5 18.0 20.6
7-9 yrs. 23.6 16.4 10.0 18.5
10-13 yrs. 15.9 21.2 18.0 18.5
14-17 yrs. 2.8 11.0 14.0 7.9

Frequency San Quentin Norco Susan- Total
(n=148) (n=110) ville (n=308)
1-5 times per week 57.5 56.4 32.0 52.9
2-3 times per month 13.0 11.9 10.0 12.1
Once a month 11.0 10.9 12.0 11.1
6 times a year 2.0 .9 10.0 2.9
7-10 times a year 0.0 1.8 0.0 .7
2-5 times a year 0.7 3.6 6.0 2.6
1-2 times a year 4.8 1.8 4.0 3.6
First times 11.0 12.7 26.0 14.0


Services San Quentin Norco Susan- Total
(n=277) (n=86) ville (n=418)
(n=55) **
A place to wait 24.5 15.1 12.7 21.1
Food/meals 24.9 4.6 12.7 19.1
Clothing 14.8 23.3 0.0 14.6
Information 10.1 17.4 16.4 12.4
Referrals 5.8 3.5 7.3 5.5
Child care 7.2 3.5 5.5 6.2
Transportation 5.8 24.4 27.3 12.4
Lodging 3.6 4.6 14.5 5.3
Emergency 0.7 2.3 0.0 1.0
Other 2.6 1.2 3.6 2.4

**Exceeds 167 because of multiple responses.

San Ouentin Norco Susan- Total
(n=132) (n=111) ville (n=297)
Processing 31.8 11.7 0.0 18.5
Visiting conditions 21.1 15.3 13.0 17.5
Visitor treatment 2.3 1.8 0.0 1.6
Travel 6.1 .9 20.4 6.7
Rules and regulations 9.8 24.3 13.0 15.8
Children’s issues 4.5 8.1 5.5 6.1
Miscellaneous 0.0 0.0 11.1 2.0
Don’t know/nothing 24.2 37.8 37.0 31.6

*All numbers reflect percentages.

Adalist-Estrin, Ann. 1986 “Parenting … from behind bars.” FRC Report, Family Resource Coalition No. 1.
Brozan, Nadine. 1986 “Prisoners learn how to be good fathers.” New York Times (September 29).
Fanshel, David and Eugene Shinn. 1978 Children in Foster Care: A Longitudinal Investigation. New York: Columbia University Press.
Greif, Judith. 1979 “Fathers, children, and joint custody.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 49:311-19.
Hairston, Creasie Finney and Patricia Lockett. 1987 “Parents in prison: New directions for social services.” Social Work 32:162-164.
Hess, Peg. 1987 “Parental visiting of children in foster care: Current knowledge and a research agenda.” Children and Youth Services Review 9:29-50.
Holt, Norman and Donald Miller. 1970 Explorations in Inmate Family Relationships. California: California Department of Corrections.
Howser, James F. and Donald MacDonald. 1982 “Maintaining family ties.” Corrections Today August:96-98.
Lanier, Charles. 1987 “Fathers in prison: A psychosocial exploration.” Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Criminology, Montreal, Canada.
Leclair, Daniel P. 1978 “Home furlough program effects on rates of recidivism.” Criminal Justice and Behavior 5:249-259.
Wallerstein, Judith. 1983 “Children of divorce: The psychological tasks of the child.” American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 53:230-243.

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Fathers in Prison: A Psychosocial Exploration – C. S. Lanier, Jr.

Thanks go to Kathleen S. Linehan, Ph.D., Susan G. Philliber, Ph.D., and William W. Philliber, Ph.D., for analysis of data as well as ongoing assistance and support.

While much attention has been given to mother-child relationships, father-child relationships and their impact upon the well-being of imprisoned men have been virtually ignored. The present study attempted to fill the research void on incarcerated fathers. It is reasonable to assume that fathers in prison who are unable to maintain healthy relationships with their children are negatively affected with at least the same psychological ailments as are noncustodial fathers in the free world. The primary purpose of this research was to describe incarcerated fathers and the problems that confront them. This project took place in an all male maximum-security prison in Napanoch, New York. A total of 302 out of 376 questionnaires was obtained, with a response rate of 80 percent. The data were gathered via interview during a week-long survey conducted at the prison in January, 1987.

The demographic characteristics of the sample are equivalent in most instances to the prison population from which it was drawn. The sample characteristics also are representative of the entire New York prison population. Additional information was elicited in order to provide a clearer picture of the incarcerated father and the problems that confront him in maintaining a viable relationship with his children. There were two independent variables regarding the status of the father-child relationship: (a) as it existed before the father was imprisoned; and (b) as it existed at the time of assessment. Four dependent variables – anxiety, depression, somatic complaints, and fathers’ concerns – were used; fathers’ concerns was thought to be indicative of a milder, less clinically obvious form of depression. Approximately two-thirds of the respondents said that they were fathers. Most reported that they were the biological fathers, while the remaining were legal stepfathers. Furthermore, there was a mean of 2.6 children per respondent. For the most part, the children were between the ages of 6 and 18 years of age.

A comparison of fathers with nonfathers indicates that they were equivalent on most characteristics. Not surprisingly though, fathers were more likely than nonfathers to be married. In addition, fathers were older, and on the average had served more prison sentences than their nonfathering counterparts. Most men reported having had high levels of closeness, involvement, and contact with their children in the period before they were sent to prison. In contrast, current levels show sharp reductions on all three dimensions of the father-child relationship. Thus, the status of the father-child relationship is quite likely to deteriorate for many fathers during incarceration.

Many fathers never enjoy physical proximity to their children. A majority of the fathers never see their children, or see them less than once a month for regular day visits. However, a greater percentage of fathers are able to maintain some degree of interaction with their children through nonproximal means of communication. For example, almost 80 percent reported receiving mail from their children. Fathers who enjoy a greater degree of interaction with their children also perceive themselves as being closer, more involved, and in more contact with them. Overall then, a father is significantly more likely to perceive the father-child relationship in a positive light if he maintains not only physical interaction with his children, but verbal interaction as well.

Still, a large number of incarcerated fathers reported that they were unable to maintain a relationship with their children through any means. Numerous reasons were given, such as lack of transportation, not enough money, children too young to read or write, or a desire to hide the fact that the father was in prison. Interference from the children’s mother was most often reported as a major factor in weakening the father-child bond. Regression analyses have demonstrated that some incarcerated fathers are adversely affected psychologically by the status of the father-child relationship. Depression and fathers’ concerns were significantly and negatively related to the status of the father-child relationship. Those fathers who perceive the relationship with their children as poor are more likely to suffer negative psychological consequences. No statistically significant relationships appeared for anxiety or somatic complaints. It may be that it is adaptive for some prisoners to deny anxiety and somatic complaints. Several recommendations are in order: First, an educational-therapeutic program should be implemented for incarcerated fathers. This program could consist of formal classes, lectures, and periodic seminars or workshops dealing with parenting issues. At the same time, individual or group counseling should be offered to help the incarcerated father cope with the loss of family relationships.

Second, a pool of trained mediators should be made available to help resolve visitation difficulties between the incarcerated parent and his children’s mother or other surrogate caregiver. The mediators also could arrange the assistance of social services if that were necessary to initiate or maintain regular father-child interaction. Third, a legal service for parents behind bars could be instituted for those cases where mediation fails. The primary purpose of this service would be to legally assist, where necessary, incarcerated parents in their efforts to maintain healthy and constructive relationships with their children.

This paper illuminates some of the problems confronting incarcerated fathers. Hopefully, this research will not only inform imprisoned parents, their nonincarcerated parental partners, their children, and all participants in the criminal justice system about the problems facing the incarcerated father and his children, but encourage future study as well.

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Effects of an Integrated Visitation/Educational Program on Development of Parenting Skills for Incarcerated Female Offenders – Luz S. Bolivar

The Project REACH Children’s Center at the Georgia Women’s Correctional Institution is designed to strengthen the quality of mother-child relationships through a special visitation and parenting educational program. The program’s goal is to contribute to the mother’s rehabilitative process and to the children’s physical, emotional and psychological development. The program has four components: the Children’s Center; supportive services for inmates and their families; training in parenting and early childhood education; and development of handcrafts.

Since it opened in December 1985, the Center has been the site of more than 618 children’s visits, has offered supportive services to more than 321 inmate- mothers, and has awarded 249 certificates in parenting and early childhood education. The author conducted research in 1987 to evaluate the effects of the program. Predictive hypotheses included: 1) positive correlation between program participation and the alteration of parental expectations and child rearing practices; 2) development of positive mother-child verbal and non-verbal interactions, and 3) an increase of the mother’s self-concept. The sample consisted of 60 mothers selected from the prison population. An experimental design using the pre-post control group model was implemented. Thirty mothers were assigned to the experimental group and 30 to the control group. Experimental group subjects were required to participate in the Project REACH program for at least one year.

Data were collected in two phases: the baseline or pre-test and the final phase or post-test, administered five months later. Four instruments were used to collect data: 1) The Adult-Adolescent Parenting Inventory (AAPI) (Bavolek 1983), which measures parenting attitudes; 2) The Tennessee Self-Concept Scale (TSCS) (Fitts, 1964), which measures self-concept; 3) A Behavioral Observation Checklist (BOC) (Bolivar 1987, adapted from Wodarski, 1983), which measures positive and negative mother-child interactions; and 4) The Parenting Profile Form (PPF) (Bolivar, 1987), which assesses subjects’ sociodemographic characteristics.

The hypotheses were confirmed in that the experimental group obtained higher scores than the control group on all post-test measures. Results showed that the experimental group (REACH participants) had: 1) more positive child rearing attitudes in regards to parental expectations, empathy, family roles, and alternatives to corporal punishment; 2) more positive verbal and non-verbal interactions; and 3) a higher overall total Self-Concept and Family Self. All comparisons presented in this study were statistically significant at either the .05 and .01 statistical levels.

These study findings suggest that the program is an effective rehabilitation tool. The author recommends more liberalized parent-child visiting hours, allocation of funds for children’s programs, broader community involvement and a more responsive/favorable attitude from legislators toward implementation of programs for the strengthening of family ties. The author also urges replication of this study in other settings.

Bavolek, T. 1983 Parental Imprisonment and Child Socialization: Progress Report #1. Washington, D.C.: Departments of Psychology and School of Social Work, Howard University.
Fitts, W. 1965 Tennessee Self Concept Scale Manual. Nashville: Counselor Recording and Tests.
Wodarski, S. 1983 Therapy for Moms in Prison. Boston: Beadon.
Women Who Love Criminal Offenders: A Psychosocial Survey, Rocco D’Angelo, Ph.D. and Glen McCleese

Service programs in the field of corrections traditionally focus their efforts on the individual offender, while very little attention is given to spouses, children, parents, relatives, and other significantly related individuals whose well-being is often placed in jeopardy as a result of the offender’s incarceration.

When a man goes to prison, the members of his family inevitably experience a severe strain, especially the woman (Schwartz and Weintraub, 1974). Not only must the woman establish a new life, care for her children, and withstand the type of social criticisms that can occur as a result of the crime committed by her loved one, but she must also learn to cope with the unfamiliar and often frightening court and prison systems in order to maintain meaningful contact with him (Holt and Miller, 1972). The purpose of this paper is to examine various problems encountered by both the women who are either married or closely related to the incarcerated offenders and the children of these individuals. It will also attempt to examine the experiences and attitudes of the women and children through a series of interviews which were conducted by both authors with these women.

Importance of Inmate Family Relationships

Imprisonment produces a double crisis for the family: “demoralization plus dismemberment” (Hill, 1965). The dismemberment is obvious, since the family must adapt to the temporary loss of a significant member. Problems encountered by the woman and children are similar to those encountered when a family member dies, but there is one important difference: the man is still very much alive and will one day probably return to the family. In addition, his absence from the family has usually been caused by acts which are socially unacceptable. Thus, at the same time that a family is dealing with the shock of dismemberment, it must deal with shame caused by the incarceration (Schwartz and Weintraub, 1974). Another problem area for the woman is that she cannot receive the necessary support or input from her husband concerning family matters. She is trying to come to grips with her new role in relationship to her husband and her children, as well as defining what the relationship of her husband will be with the family. Many women find it appropriate to maintain a family structure in which the father is still symbolically “the head of the household” (Schwartz and Weintraub, 1974). Thus, when the wife is allowed to write and visit her husband, decisions are often brought for his approval. This can cause the women intense stress when there is a disagreement between the man and the woman around family decisions (Schwartz and Weintraub, 1974).

A study by Morris (1965) examining the daily practical problems encountered by inmates’ families established the main difficulties as stigmatization, finances and housing, management of children, and visits with the incarcerated relative. The situation has not really changed since Morris’s report. The psychological stress experienced by women is often self-deprecating. They may wonder if they contributed to their husband’s plight, or berate themselves for nagging, fighting, or telling criminal justice too much or too little (Schwartz and Weintraub, 1974). If there are children in the family, the mother must also cope with their reactions to losing a father (Howard, 1982). Like mothers, children may feel it is their fault that their father has left, and may interpret his absence as a cessation of love (Friedman and Esselstyn, 1965). The child also must somehow resolve hostility and guilt directed at the mother for not holding on to the father. The child’s own anxieties and fears are often compounded by the mother’s intense emotional upheaval (Schwartz and Weintraub, 1974).

What can be said about the effect of close relationships that inmates have with females outside of the institution of marriage? Do they offer any potential for benefiting the inmate’s social adjustment while in prison or afterward? Is there any potential good or redeeming value that can be accrued to a woman who commits herself to a relationship with an inmate? What motivates someone to attach themselves to another, realizing they cannot be together for some time – maybe a very long time? Women who love inmates, unlike their unsympathetic peers, may describe such a commitment as a measure of their love, which they believe is reciprocated even if others cannot appreciate how. There may be a sense of psychological or mental security that they may derive from sharing in such a love, even when the possibility and opportunity for physical consummation is remote. But the important question is: What potential, if any, is there for modifying the unsociable, self-defeating behavior of criminal inmates? Does such a relationship offer similar potential for inmate behavior modification that has been attributed to inmates’ families? Such a question is worthy of exploration, since many correctional counselors and therapists believe that meaningful socialization provides a key to prisoner reform.

Historically, very few social service agencies, either governmental or private, have identified families of incarcerated individuals as needing specific information, counseling or other supportive services (Bakker, Morris and Jarvis, 1978). They need basic information in order to restructure their lives during the absence of the father and to be prepared for his eventual return to the family. This cannot be accomplished without learning how to deal with the correctional system while they are restructuring their lives (Weintraub, 1976). Holt and Miller (1972) indicate that strong family ties can have a positive influence on offenders during, as well as after, imprisonment. Considering that the family is a crucial resource in the life of offenders, the more we can do to assist families in functioning adequately and to preserve the security they represent to incarcerated offenders, the greater the chances of enhancing the stability of the offender and maintaining his positive outlook. We need to learn more about how this can be done through the family unit. The specific objective of this research was to develop a comprehensive psychosocial profile of spouses of incarcerated offenders that encompasses their personal experiences and problems, attitudes and needs that will provide clues for developing services useful to this needy population and beneficial to loved ones who are incarcerated.

A Survey of Inmate’s Relationship with Females
This research was planned as a qualitative study based on a survey of personal case histories. Interviews were held with a purposive sample of subjects who were married or intimately related to incarcerated offenders (common law relationships, girlfriends and fiances). The subjects were located with the help of voluntary organizations, correctional institutions and by personal referral. In each case the women constituted the offender’s main link to the community. Although the original intent of the researchers was to focus the study on the family unit with emphasis on the mother, frequent encounters with non-married women that had formed intimate relationships with incarcerated offenders suggested an important and somewhat overlooked person in the offender’s social network. Therefore, the eligible population for the study was defined to include legal spouses as well as common-law and intimate relationships formed by consent of both parties. An initial sample of thirty-five individuals agreed to participate in the study.

Beginning in the fall of 1986, twenty-seven individuals were interviewed, six women withdrew from the study and two individuals postponed their interviews for personal reasons. Subjects were contacted, explained the nature of the study project, given consent forms to sign and were then interviewed in social agencies located in different areas of Columbus, Ohio. The interviewers utilized a semi-structured schedule with many open-ended items. Questions encompassed data covering: (a) individual and family characteristics; (b) personal and family reactions to the incarceration; (c) interactions with the offender while incarcerated; and (d) contacts with the correctional facility. Responses were analyzed qualitatively, categorized for description and, in some cases, ranked. No attempt was made on arriving at hard and universal conclusions. The exploratory purpose of this research favored identifing dominant traits or characteristics that affected the lives of these subjects and, through them, their incarcerated relatives or loved ones. Consequently, the findings may be viewed as impressionistic but rooted in empirical observation.

It is hoped that useful questions have been generated by this research. Its limitations in both internal and external validity, it is also hoped, will be compensated for by explorations in areas that are usually overlooked in research focused on the problems associated with our correctional system and the administration of justice.

Research Findings: Selected Characteristics of Females
The subjects were twenty-seven women who were married or intimately related (anticipating marriage) to incarcerated offenders sentenced to serve from two years to life. Offenders were convicted for a variety of crimes ranging from drug peddling to manslaughter, but the finding of this research will focus on their relationships to women. The median age of the women was between 35 and 40. Their education level as a whole was less than high school level, but one-third of the subjects had college degrees or better. Two-thirds of the women were black, while the rest were white. Of those women that had children, the average number was between three and four. Their major source of income was from public welfare and assistance from relatives and friends; forty percent of the women were employed. The types of problems they experienced varied considerably according to their marital status, the ages of children and their personal circumstances, but the most stressful aspect of their experience was dealing with the social isolation that comes with the incarceration; next was the management of children. Often the absence of the father combined with a dramatic loss of economic resources and severely undermined the survival capacity of family members.

The high stress levels experienced by children were often revealed by black moods, unruly attitudes in the home, destructive behaviors toward themselves, as well as others, and school problems. In this sample, a few mothers specifically attributed drug use and pregnancy of teenagers to the father’s incarceration. Immediate family members, including children, were identified as the most helpful individuals during the peak of the crisis, but this was not the case with extended relatives, who often reflected disapproving social attitudes. Ministers and support groups were also consistently mentioned as helpers. Social workers and social agency personnel received unfavorable evaluations as a rule.

Maintaining Relationships in an Oppressive Environment
A prevalent theme heard in discussions with spouses regarded the many barriers that existed or seemed to be placed in the way of families visiting and communicating with their incarcerated members. Traveling to and from the correctional facility was considered impossible on any regular basis if one lived on a public welfare budget. Dependent families, therefore, had to rely on relatives and friends for transportation; not too many of them were available. Even when transportation was available, sometimes unreliable information or lack of information from the correctional facility interfered with regular visitations. The reaction to the prison environment was often very negative and clearly articulated: “We are treated just like criminals!” Women frequently complained of being robbed of their dignity. “We are serving time just like they are!” exclaimed another women, frustrated by years of such visitations. Spouses appeared to identify personally with the particular offense committed by their incarcerated mates.

Consequently, it was not implausible for them to regard their spouse’s sentence as something they shared very personally. Likewise, one can appreciate the dynamics that cause these women to carry a heavy burden of guilt and feel intimidated by the authority of the correctional system. On top of this self-depreciation, the indifference of the correctional system to the stressful reality that confronts relatives made matters more difficult. Unfortunately, the community outside of the correctional facility is no more compassionate or considerate of the offender’s family. There are no specific established resources to help this troubled population, and funds to establish any kind of programs for them are hard to come by.

Chainlinking: A Process of Building and Maintaining Local Supports
Although the original thrust of this study was to focus on the situation of the offender’s family, researchers became interested in the process social network construction that went on while the offender was incarcerated. When blood-based relationships were not functional or available in a number of cases, an auxiliary network of relationships with non-blood related social contacts was substituted for the role traditionally taken by a blood relative. This occurred in a couple of instances when inmates on furloughs initiated acquaintances with female participants in a ministry-sponsored support group. In other instances, visitors brought friends with them to a correctional facility visitation who established a relationship with a second inmate, and they eventually paired off by themselves. This process of annexing new relationships to an existing relationship was termed “chainlinking,” because of the interdependence between members of the social network. An important aspect of the chainlinking process is that it is perceived to be mutually beneficial to the inmate side as well as the visitor side.

This can be seen in a pair of illustrations. Illustration I [omitted] represents the customary situation, in which inmates communicate with blood and close relatives, and the corrections facility restricts its own communication with relatives and does not enter into the process of constructing a supportive social network that is potentially beneficial to both inmates and their relatives. In the conventional arrangement, correctional officials confine their communications to the inmate system, and visitors tend to rely on the informal system of communication for information. In Illustration II [omitted], the social network and communication channels between inmates and visitors has expanded through chainlinking. The correctional institution priorities have not changed, but the potential support social network of inmates has expanded, increasing relationships with members of the community. Likewise, opportunities for socialization for those occupying visitors roles have increased and serve a need-meeting function. The researchers learned that women who entered relationships with inmates were often those who had previous unsuccessful or disappointing relationships with males in their past, and saw this as a unique opportunity to re-establish a relationship with a male with some controls.

The chainlinking process has emerged under the repressive administration of the corrections institution because it meets the needs of both inmates and visitors for human contact with sympathetic individuals. While there may be some inherent shortcomings to such a stigmatized network, the fact speaks for its potential as a socializing device. Without the chainlinking process, communication would be much more restricted, and pressures on inmates would be greater without opportunities for socialization. Many professionals in the human service fields would acknowledge that increasing an inmate’s points of contact with the outside, by the initiative of the inmate, is recognized as a positive indicator. It should also be kept in mind that inmates’ More startling than the distress of spouses and relatives of inmates is the relative disinterest that helping professions have displayed toward these vulnerable populations. Historically, the development of the social work profession and corrections have followed a parallel course. Strained by different philosophies, social workers practicing in criminal justice settings have found themselves polarized between social work’s compassion and the correctional system’s reliance on authority and force (Brennan et al., 1983). Social workers in correctional systems exist to serve the needs of the correctional structure. While there is much rhetoric heard today about community treatment and ecological practice, correctional treatment has not really budged beyond the scenario depicted by Elliot Studt (1977) over a decade ago, in which the correctional institution represented a microcosm, with inmates engaged with staff in treatment processes aimed at preparing offenders to meet the real world upon their release from confinement.

The correctional facility is regarded by realists as a training facility for crime and vice. The movement to return offenders to the community as quickly as possible was influenced by dangerous conditions of overcrowding in prisons and the prohibitive costs of building more prisons. Until some future time when families of inmates are treated more humanely by the correctional system and viewed as important social resources to help in the offender’s social adaptation, social workers will need to combine their resources with religious groups, volunteer workers and other community groups to lobby and become activists for change. With this in mind, the following recommendations are offered as modest objectives to be sought to improve conditions for families of incarcerated offenders:

To promote the formation of a nationwide advocacy group consisting of a consortium of professionals and service groups to establish a positive rationale with common objectives and standards for delivering services to families of incarcerated offenders.

To develop training institutes and workshops in convenient locations to better prepare professionals (social workers, ministers, corrections social service workers, counselors, etc.) and volunteer workers to be sensitive to the needs and concerns of inmate families.

To develop resources and make provisions for distributing emergency food, clothing, shelter, child care, funds and transportation amenities without needless red tape or eligibility processing.

To find ways to establish peer support groups and recruit sponsors in a variety of community settings that provide a diversity of ethnic, cultural, religious, secular and philosophical orientations that suit the special needs of inmate families.

To engage in more research and become more knowledgeable about the chainlinking process as a social network building mechanism, and to evaluate its potential for providing support services for inmates and their families.

To promote research that will teach us more about the disabling and debilitating effect that incarceration of parents and other family members has on the family unit, and to learn more about ways to prevent the deterioration and decline of family functioning.

To establish a general code of ethical principles, values and desirable conditions that will serve as a universal guide for professional workers in dealing with families and former inmates of correctional facilities for the purpose of restoring the former inmate and his or her family to maximum functioning.

Bakker, Laura J., Barbara Morris and Laura Jarvis. 1978 “Hidden victims of crime.” Social Work 23:143-148.
Brennan, Thomas P., Amy Gedrich, Susan Jacoby, Michael Tardy and Katherine Tyson. 1986 “Forensic social work: Practice and vision.” Social Casework 67:340-350.
Friedman, Sidney and Conway Esselstyn. 1965 “The adjustment of children of jail inmates.” Federal Probation 29:39-47.
Hill, Reuben. 1965 “Generic features of families under stress.” Crisis Intervention. Howard Parod, (ed.). Family Service Association of America.
Holt, Norman and Donald Miller. 1972 Explorations in Inmate-Family Relationships. California Department of Correction Report, Sacramento, California.
Howard, Jeanne. 1982 Basic Issues in Child Welfare Practice: A Handbook for Students and Beginning Workers. Department of Human Services, Columbus, Ohio.
Morris, Pauline. 1965 Prisoners and Their Families. New York: Hart Publishing Co.
Schwartz, Mary C. and Judith Weintraub. 1974 “The prisoner’s wife: A study in crisis.” Federal Probation 38:20-26.
Studt, Elliot. 1977 “Crime and delinquency: Institutions.” Encyclopedia of Social Work, 17th Ed., Vol. I: 208-213.
Weintraub, Judith. 1976 “The delivery of services to families of prisoners.” Federal Probation 40:28-31.

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Lawrence Bennett, Ph.D. is Director of Adjudication and Corrections Division, National Institute of Justice. Dr. Bennett has held positions as a parole agent, vocational counselor, correctional counselor and clinical psychologist. He has taught a wide variety of courses and has published extensively in the field of criminal justice.

Luz I. Bolivar is a student in the Masters in Criminal Justice Program at the University of South Carolina. She is a counselor and Project Research Coordinator at the Georgia Department of Corrections.

Marion L. Borum is currently Deputy Commissioner of the New York State Department of Correctional Services. He has also served as a Deputy Superintendent, Superintendent, and Assistant Commissioner. During his tenure, Deputy Commissioner Borum has spearheaded a wide variety of inmate program improvements in education, healthcare, counseling, and human services. Of particular note, are the enhanced services which inmate families enjoy due, in large measure, to his efforts.

Rocco D’Angelo, Ph.D. is currently a professor and serves as chairperson of the Research Teaching Group at the Ohio State University College of Social Work. He has authored numerous articles and scholarly papers on adolescent runaways, teenage pregnancy, adolescent-parent conflict, and families of inmates.

Creasie Finney Hairston, Ph.D. is Professor and Associate Dean, Indiana University School of Social Work and Vice-President, Parents in Prison, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee. Dr. Hairston is a researcher and program development consultant in the area of families and corrections. Her recent articles on families and corrections appear in Child Abuse and Neglect: The International Journal, Federal Probation, and Social Work.

Peg McCartt Hess, Ph.D., ACSW, is Associate Professor, Indiana University School of Social Work in Indianapolis, Indiana. She has practiced and teaches in the area of services to families with children. The author of several articles on family visiting of children in foster care, she is the co-author of the book Family Visiting in Out-of-Home Care: A Guide to Practice to be published by the Child Welfare League of America in the Fall, 1988.

C. David Howell, Major, is Executive Director for the Salvation Army Correctional Services Department in Ottawa, Ontario. All Salvation Army criminal justice programs and activities are under his direction. A further responsibility is that of National Correctional Services Representative whereby he represents the Army’s Territorial Headquarters in federal government related ministries and other national organizations in the Ottawa area.

C.S. Lanier, Jr. recently received a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the State University of New York at New Paltz. For his Master’s Thesis he conducted research on fathers in prison in an attempt to explore some of the problems confronting this prison subgroup. He has been instrumental in generating the Eastern Fathers Group, an educational and mutual support program for incarcerated fathers at the Eastern Correctional Facility (New York).

Velma LaPoint, Ph.D. is Assistant Dean, School of Human Ecology, Howard University. She teaches courses in child development, family relationships, and social policy analysis. She has published several articles and scholarly papers.

Glen McCleese, B.S.W. is coordinator of the Marion County (Ohio) Halfway House. He is a certified alcohol counselor who has published and made conference presentations on the topics of homelessness and alcoholism. Mr. McCleese is currently enrolled in graduate studies at the Ohio State University College of Social Work.

Virginia V. Neto is a criminal justice consultant who has conducted research and evaluation studies on varied aspects of criminal justice, including parole, probation, community alternatives, women offenders, corrections, and victims’ rights.

Joseph Ossmann has served as the Executive Director of the Friends Outside National Organization since 1979. In that role he directly oversees the organization’s twelve prison representatives and provides consultation and direction to nineteen chapters in three states. He is active in numerous criminal justice associations and is the immediate past president of the National Association on Volunteers in Criminal justice.

Sister Elaine Roulet is Director of the Children’s Center at the Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in New York. The Center is a model program which has received national recognition for its service. Sister Roulet also administers several homes for homeless women and for children of inmates. Her presentation was made possible through the financial support of the National Institute of Corrections.

Ruth Rushen, Special Liaison, Office of the Attorney General(California) serves as an advisor on all phases of corrections and as liaison to California’s minority communities. She also served as Vice-Chair of the California Parole Board and Director of the CDC. She was responsible for establishing the contract between CDC and community resources such as Centerforce, a prison visiting center.
Debbie Smith is a consultant with Overload Business Services, Altadena, California. She is also active in advocacy and support services for families involved in the corrections system.

Published by:
Training Resource Center
Department of Correctional Services
Eastern Kentucky University
202 Perkins
Richmond, Kentucky 40475-3127
Phone (606) 622-1497
Fax (606) 622-6264


Conference Directors
Barbara Bloom: Criminal Justice Consultant, San Anselmo, California; former Executive Director of Centerforce
Jim Mustin: Executive Director, Family and Corrections Network; Staff Development Coordinator, Academy for Staff Development, Virginia Department of Corrections
Bruce Wolford: Director, Training Resource Center, Eastern Kentucky University

Conference Advisory Committee
Ellen Barry: Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, San Francisco, California
Renee Campbell: Centerforce, San Quentin, California
Creasie Finney Hairston: Indiana University School of Social Work
Carolyn McCall: Prison MATCH, Oakland, California
Joseph Ossmann: Friends Outside National Organization, Salinas, California
Pauline Sullivan: CURE National Office, Washington, D.C.
Al Wengerd: Menonnite Central Committee, Office of Criminal Justice, Elkhart, Indiana

Proceedings Editor
Creasie Finney Hairston, Ph.D.

Special Thanks To
The contributors who, by sharing their thoughts, ideas, program experiences, and research findings, made this resource document possible.
Indiana University School of Social Work for support in the preparation of this publication.
Debbie Smith of Overload Business Services, Altadena, California, for transcribing the four Keynote addresses.
Mary Roberts, Indiana University School of Social Work for typing this manuscript.
Richard Russell of Bridging Blocks, Inc., Concord Massachusetts, for help in editing the manuscript.

© Copyright 1989, Family and Corrections Network

All Rights Reserved. Do not reproduce without written permission from NRCCFI at FCN.