Using multiple measures of visitation (any visit, total number of visits, visits per month, timing of visits, and number of individual visitors) and recidivism (new offense conviction and technical violation revocation), the study found that visitation significantly decreased the risk of recidivism, a result that was robust across all of the Cox regression models that were estimated. 

The results also showed that visits from siblings, in-laws, fathers, and clergy were the most beneficial in reducing the risk of recidivism, whereas visits from ex-spouses significantly increased the risk. 

The findings suggest that revising prison visitation policies to make them more “visitor friendly” could yield public safety benefits by helping offenders establish a continuum of social support from prison to the community. 

It is anticipated, however, that revising existing policies would not likely increase visitation to a significant extent among unvisited inmates, who comprised nearly 40 percent of the sample. Accordingly, it is suggested that correctional systems consider allocating greater resources to increase visitation among inmates with little or no social support.

Read the whole study.