• Article

If Family Matters: Supporting Family Relationships During Incarceration and Reentry

In the context of growing evidence that prisoners’ family relationships play a pivotal role in their reintegration after release, Thomas Mowen and Christy Visher (2016, this issue) find that some individuals are more vulnerable than others to deterioration in these relationships over the course of incarceration and reentry. Having prior convictions, living with a mental health condition, being single or divorced, or reporting institutional barriers to family contact were all associated with experiencing a sharper decline in family contact or support over the course of an incarceration and release from prison, whereas being Black, female, or participating in parenting classes were associated with improvements in family contact and support. It is also important to note that in the modal case, family inter-actions and family emotional support both declined steeply from pre- to postincarceration. Although this finding does not establish the impact of incarceration on family relationships (as there is no comparison with family relationship trajectories of similar nonincarcerated individuals), it does indicate that incarceration often exacts a heavy toll on the very family relationships on which reentering persons will rely for “housing, emotional support, financial resources, and overall stability” (Visher, Kachnowski, LaVigne, and Travis, 2004)—in short, almost every aspect of their survival and well-being—upon release.


McKay, T., Comfort, M., Lindquist, C., & Bir, A. (2016). If Family Matters: Supporting Family Relationships During Incarceration and Reentry. Criminology & Public Policy, 15(2), 529-542. https://doi.org/10.1111/1745-9133.12209

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