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Washington State Institute for Public Policy

Visitation with Incarcerated People

Past research on prison visitation consistently finds that most incarcerated people never receive a single visit while incarcerated. A major reason for this is that individuals are frequently sent to prison facilities that are not located near their home community. As a result, participating in prison visitation often requires friends and family to travel long distances. In addition to paying for transportation, visitors may need to cover the costs of lodging, childcare, and lost wages from taking time off work. Because it is common for incarcerated individuals to come from economically disadvantaged communities, one of the main explanations for low rates of visitation is that many people who wish to visit incarcerated loved ones cannot afford to do so.

At the same time, evidence suggests that increasing visitation may benefit the correctional system and public safety. In addition, since it is common for people to live with family when they first leave prison, visitation plays an important role in helping individuals maintain these relationships while preparing for community reentry.

The Washington State Department of Corrections (DOC) offers several programs to facilitate visitation. WSIPP will examine whether the behavior of incarcerated individuals (measured through infractions) changes before or after a scheduled visitation, if there are any impacts on behavior conditional upon the type of visit, and if patterns of visitation impact recidivism.

A report will be published in the fall of 2025.
Corey Whichard, (360) 664-9075 View Legislation