ALLOW EXTENDED FAMILY VISITS IN ALL ILLINOIS PRISONS
This petition had 448 supporters
Illinois prisons, like many other states, are over crowded and plagued with conduct issues. Currently only a few states in the U.S. allow extended family visit. Many people view extended family visits as simply conjugal visits and this is not true. Modern extended family visits allow prisoners of good standing the ability to stay in facilities on prison grounds, that are designated for this purpose, with immediate family members for a short period of time but only a few times a year. This means a father, mother, and child could keep family bonds strong.
In a study conducted by the University of Illinois at Chicago it states that 54 percent of Illinois prisoners reported not visiting with their minor child since incarcerated. This is an easy fact to understand because as a mother I can only imagine how hard it would be to take small children on what may be a long drive, to wait in a long line, and then be told they cannot go sit in their parents lap or hug them anytime they wish during the visit. In addition the Urban institute reports that low numbers of Illinois inmates who have rentered society have reported having strong attachment to their minor child. This fact is also easy to understand because the parent and child were not able to keep strong bonds during the incarceration.
Illinois reported a prison population of 45, 551 in 2012. If being able to maintain stronger family bonds just helped 1 percent of this prison population to not return after release thats 455 inmates. If one considers the estimated $38, 268 it cost to house an inmate annually, thats millions of dollars that could be saved every year in the state of Illinois. However, its even more than that...its 455 families that maybe could have a happy ending.
This practice can do many positive things for not only the prisoners but the prison facility. Extended family visits could offer a strong incentive for prisoners to follow rules in order to obtain the privilege of these visits and continue to stay out of trouble to keep the visits. Its understandable if offenders who have been convicted of certain crimes like domestic abuse or child abuse would not be allowed these visits but otherwise inmates should have a chance to earn this priviledge. In womens facilities an extended family visit between mother and child should be able to be earned as well. These visits could also help once the inmate is allowed to re-enter society. Many inmates are so used to being in prison they find it hard to re-learn how to live with family and do simple domestic tasks. When a prisoner has not had the ability to cook breakfast for their family or read a story to their child at night it is easy to forget the reasons they should stay straight. Once they come home they may feel they have missed so much that there really isn't a point to be home. It is realized there are many things that can give inmates a better chance at being productive once free but the bonds of family can be the ultimate motivation.
We are asking the Illinois Department of Corrections to implement extended family visits as a earned privilege to married prisoners especially when children are involved. Help preserve family bonds and motivate prisoners to want to be productive. Normal visits are vital but in these visits inmates can not hold or rock their children or help make a family meal. It has been proven that strong family bonds build more emotionally and psychologically stable individuals. These visits could also do wonderful things for a child of a prisoner. Strong families are our best chance for a brighter future.
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