Prisoner Reentry

The Effect of Incarceration and In-Prison Family Contact on Prisoners

Nancy La Vigne
Director of the Justice Policy Center, Urban Institute

Key Findings

  • In-prison contact with family members improves the level of support post-release.
  • In-prison contact with children is important to the establishment of post-release involvement with children.


Given the importance of family helping offenders reintegrate into communities, this study examined the impact of in-prison contact with family members and the possible influence visits had on post-release family relationships. The authors interviewed 233 male prisoners in Chicago before and after their release to analyze the quality of their relationships with family members. The study further examined the frequency and types of in-prison contact and its correlation to post-release family support. The authors found that in-prison contact with family members improved the level of support post-release, especially when children were involved.

Despite the separation and strains caused by incarceration, the authors found that the quality of family relationships and level of family support were relatively consistent over time.

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