Correctional agencies should partner with families, community organizations, and those most impacted by incarceration in ways that acknowledge, respect, and facilitate strong connections between incarcerated people and their loved ones and support systems. Visitation spaces in correctional environments should be designed with care and evoke a sense of beauty and belonging so people using them can feel welcome and hopeful. Facilities should keep in mind not only the visitation space itself, but the experience of visitors arriving and walking to and from the space. Pathways to building family and community partnership

Family and Community

1. Establish a workgroup of corrections professionals and incarcerated people to review practices and policies, centering engagement and positive interactions with family and the community to ensure that they align with this Family and Community Partnership Principle.

2. Ensure that policies and practices reflect that family connection is a right, not a privilege.

3. Address and alleviate barriers to family contact.

  • a. Connecting in person
    • i. Allow everyone to spend time with their families and support systems.
    • ii. Disconnect opportunities to spend time with family from custody level, classification, or disciplinary history.
    • iii. Remove policies that ban people with a history of contact with the criminal legal system from visiting residents.
    • iv. Eliminate the practice of taking away visits and phone calls as punishment.
    • v. Broaden the definition of family to include all loved ones and support systems.
    • vi. Expedite visitation and phone list approval processes, and allow for special and emergency visits of immediate family during any approval period.
    • vii. Expand virtual communication to ensure access to family engagement for all.
    • viii. Allow people to have an unrestricted number of approved visitors on their visitation list.
    • ix. Reduce or eliminate clothing restrictions for visitors; if necessary, provide replacement clothing options for visitors.
    • x. Explore opportunities to provide transportation to the facility from neighborhoods with high concentrations of family members.
  • b. Connecting by mail or email
    • i. Eliminate policies and practices that ban physical mail and books, including for reasons based on racial, ethnic, gender, or LGBTQ+ content.
    • ii. Ban policies and practices that prevent external organizations from facilitating pen-pal relationships.
  • c. Connecting by phone or video
    • i. Provide free phone and video calls.

4. Notify family in a timely manner of information about, and any changes to, their incarcerated loved one’s safety, medical needs, and disciplinary status.

5. Foster partnerships with families by hosting family-friendly events and including loved ones in case planning, wellness workshops, celebratory events, graduations, competitions, and restorative practices. Agencies should provide the families of incarcerated residents with

  • a. regular workshops on how to support their incarcerated loved ones;
  • b. trainings on recognizing and mitigating stress; and
  • c. information on how to access counseling and other services that will support themselves and their loved ones.

6. Assess the spaces where families spend time together and make necessary improvements to create family-friendly environments.

  • a. This may include
    • i. establishing less invasive search procedures;
    • ii. creating aesthetically pleasing visitation spaces;
    • iii. improving the entire experience of parking, check-in, travel, and visitation, with a particular focus on creating a safe and friendly experience for children;
    • iv. providing toys, games, and books for parents to use with children during visits;
    • v. providing affordable, nourishing food options in visitation spaces; and
    • vi. providing opportunities for families to eat snacks and meals together.
  • b. Where possible, consider nontraditional spaces that support family and community visits, such as
    • i. family apartments that support overnight family visits;
    • ii. access to exterior spaces to have a picnic, play a sport, or take a walk; or
    • iii. kitchen or dining facilities that support making and enjoying a meal in community.

7. Support incarcerated parents’ contact with their families by establishing agreements with the state or county department of education to ensure incarcerated parents are included in academic planning meetings for their children.

8. Include family members in decision-making. For example, create space for conversations about what classes residents are taking or their medication compliance.

Partnership Principle resources