Visits by family members and friends to inmates may seem mundane, but they play a significant role in improving public safety and reducing corrections costs, says a Minnesota corrections department study reported by the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Inmates who receive regular visits are much less likely to be convicted of a felony once they leave prison because they develop strong support networks while imprisoned, the study says.
Although the conclusion may seem obvious, it could trigger changes across Minnesota’s state prison system, such as extending visiting hours, addressing decrepit conditions in visiting areas, and reaching out for volunteers to spend time with prisoners who’ve been abandoned by family. “The ability to make a successful transition from prison to rebuilding a normal life can be measured by visits and shows there are significant savings in public safety costs,” said Grant Duwe, corrections research director. “Just going back to prison for a technical violation of probation violation costs $9,000 a pop, so you can see how it becomes expensive.” Using a sample of 16,400 prisoners released from Minnesota’s correctional system between 2003 and 2007, Duwe evaluated the relationship between prisoner visits and recidivism.