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Vera’s Family Justice Program is partnering with the Indiana Department of Correction, Division of Youth Services (DYS) to study the importance of family visitation for incarcerated youth and to provide the field with lessons about the challenges and benefits of implementing enhanced visitation policies that expand opportunities for family contact.

Indiana DYS, after piloting the family engagement standards Vera developed with the Performance-based Standards Learning Institute in 2012, discovered that visitation was an area for improvement. They changed their policy at the beginning of 2013 to allow families to visit as often as they can while also expanding visitation opportunities to six days a week. Visitation rates doubled in a matter of months. These innovative reforms carry potential implications for family engagement policies in juvenile facilities nationwide.

With funding from an Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Field-Initiated Research and Evaluation grant, Vera will examine the impact of the increase in family visits on behavioral and educational outcomes for young people in custody. Vera will also study the impact, if any, of enhanced visitation policies on recidivism rates for young people released from juvenile correctional facilities.

Vera will use administrative data, interviews with DYS leadership, and focus groups with DYS staff to provide an in-depth description of the implementation of the enhanced visitation policies. Vera will then begin a study of the impact of increased family visits on behavioral and educational outcomes for young people in custody. This phase will match analysis of individual-level administrative data with interviews of incarcerated youth and their family members. In the final phase of the project, Vera will examine the impact, if any, of enhanced visitation policies on recidivism rates for young people released from juvenile correctional facilities.

Why examine the impact of family engagement in juvenile correctional facilities?

This study will produce new evidence assessing the impact of visits on young people in a juvenile correctional setting. By providing clear insight on the effects of expanded visitation, the study will have significant policy implications for the many state agencies and family advocacy and support groups eager to learn how best to support juveniles in correctional settings.

In 2010, there were more than 48,000 young people serving time in juvenile correctional facilities nationwide. Vera’s research suggests that those who receive more visits have better educational outcomes and better behavior.

 


This project is supported by Grant #2013-JF-FX-0056, awarded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice. The opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this webpage are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect those of the Department of Justice.