Washington (October 3) – Approximately two million people are currently behind bars across the United States. This extends the impact of incarceration far beyond jails and prisons to millions of family members. Isolating incarcerated individuals from their family members can have major negative repercussions when these individuals are released and try to successfully re-enter society.

In a new policy paper, R Street criminal justice policy associate, Emily Mooney and associate director of criminal justice policy and senior fellow, Nila Bala argue for the importance of supporting family connections, especially during the re-entry period.

More specifically, the authors argue that prioritizing family connections should be a critical part of any re-entry effort. In fact, family connections may offer critical emotional and psychological support, help incarcerated individuals gain practical support, mitigate the harm parental incarceration has on children and promote public safety. For these reasons, the paper concludes that we should remove unnecessary and unproductive barriers to family connections, make visitation more accessible and productive, and expand the impact of positive family connections.

The authors add, “[b]ehind most incarcerated individuals is a family that is critical to encouraging positive change on the inside and supporting them as they prepare for life on the outside. Connecting these families creates a safer public in the form of reduced crime and incarceration.”