about half of prisoners receive no personal visits from outside prison

Prisoners’ personal communication with persons outside of prison vary greatly.  About half of prisoners receive across their whole spell of incarceration no personal visits from persons living in the outside world.[1]  In Florida, prisoners who receive visits receive on average about one visit per month.  In Minnesota, prisoners who receive visits receive on average about three visits per month.  Compared to Florida prisons, Minnesota prisons are closer to the major cities where most prisoners originally lived.[2]  The lower travel costs of visiting prisoners in Minnesota is consistent with its higher visiting frequency among prisoners who receive visits.

Immediate family don’t predominate among prisoners’ visitors.  Spouses and significant others accounts for a much smaller share of visitors than do parents and friends.  Troubled personal and social relations often contribute to motivating the criminal acts that cause persons to be incarcerated.  Identifying persons who will maintain personal contact with a prisoner isn’t a simple matter of standard relational designations.  Friends account for a considerable share of personal visits to prisoners.

Despite the public importance of the criminal justice system and the extraordinarily high prevalence of incarceration in the U.S., community groups show relatively little personal engagement with prisoners.  Clergy, mentors, and other professionals account for less than 5% of visits that prisoners receive.[3]  Given high public concern about crime and the importance of prisoners’ contact with the outside world in lessening recidivism, much more civic engagement with prisoners would seem to be in the public interest.

Online video visitation can help to increase prisoners’ communication with the outside world.  Online video visitation with prisoners eliminates travel costs and lessens visit scheduling difficulties.  Online video visitation can help to increase personal contact among prisoners who have none with the outside world.  Online video visitation, by eliminating the significance of prison location, also supports more equal opportunities for prisoners to receive visits.

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Workbook of prisoner visiting statistics for Florida and Minnesota (Excel version), extracted from Bales & Mears (2008) and Duwe & Clark (2011) .


[1] Based on visiting data for prisoners in Minnesota and Florida.  The average spell of imprisonment in the Minnesota sample is 20 months.  The Florida data, which show that 58% of prisoners receive no visits, cover the year before release from prison.

[2] See Florida and Minnesota prisoner visiting data.  In Florida, 30% of state prisoners lived in the Miami-Dade County area, but only 5% are held there. In Minnesota, most prisons are within 100 miles of the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, where about 40% of prisoners lived. Duwe & Clark (2011) pp. 3,4.

[3] See Florida and Minnesota prisoner visiting data.


Duwe, Grant, and Valerie Clark. 2011. “Blessed Be the Social Tie That Binds: The Effects of Prison Visitation on Offender Recidivism.” Criminal Justice Policy Review. Published online before print December 6, 2011, doi: 10.1177/0887403411429724

Bales, William D., and Daniel P. Mears. 2008. “Inmate Social Ties and the Transition to Society: Does Visitation Reduce Recidivism?” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 45 (3): 287 – 321.

2 thoughts on “about half of prisoners receive no personal visits from outside prison”

  1. I am trying t find out how to get video communication with my husband who is being held at Cherokee County Jail, Georgia. Please help in any way

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