Parent–Child Visits When Parents Are Incarcerated in Prison or Jail

  • Julie Poehlmann-TynanEmail author
  • Kaitlyn Pritzl


As the number of children affected by parental incarceration has risen, so too have issues regarding children’s visits with parents at corrections facilities. Many incarcerated parents do not receive any visits. For some, this is a choice because they do not want their children to see them in jail or prison, but for others it occurs because of factors outside of their control. If visits do occur, visit frequency is affected by numerous factors including location of the jail or prison, availability and cost of transportation, availability and willingness of a parent, grandparent, or caregiver to bring the child to the corrections facility, days and times offered for visits, and policies of the corrections facility. In addition to these factors, the quality of the visit experience is related to policies and practices of the corrections facility including type of visits offered, privacy, length of visits, and availability of toys and books; family factors such as children’s interactions with caregivers before, during, and after visits, the child’s relationship with the incarcerated parent, and what children are told about the parent’s incarceration; and factors related to the incarcerated parent such as institutional behavior and the ability to maintain contact through other means, such as letters and phone calls. A number of studies have examined how children cope with visits and tried to address the question about whether or not visits are helpful for child and family well-being at the time of the parent’s incarceration, whereas other studies have examined the relation between visits and post-release adjustment, including relationship quality and parental recidivism. The chapter closes with recommendations for positive visit experiences.


Caregiver Children Contact Incarcerated parent Jail Parent–child relationships Policies Prison Visits 


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Human Development and Family Studies, School of Human EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA
  2. 2.Human Development and Family StudiesUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA

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