Strengthen Family Bonds in Texas Prisons

Strengthen Family Bonds in Texas Prisons

32 have signed. Let’s get to 50!

Why this petition matters

Started by Paige M.

Texas lawmakers need to introduce, support, and pass legislation and regulations that would assist in not only maintaining, but strengthening, family bonds between those who are incarcerated and their loved ones on the outside. This will positively impact the mental health, behavior, and recidivism rates of inmates in Texas, and will create changes that permeate generations.

Feeling supported by, and having solid connections to, their families and communities is vital to the mental health of those who are incarcerated, and has shown to substantially reduce recidivism rates amongst those who are reintegrated into society. The relationships with family and communities are crucial to the emotional, physical, and mental well-being of those who are serving lengthy sentences, are facing life in prison, or are condemned.

When someone is incarcerated their loved ones "do time" too. Mothers, fathers, wives, husbands, children, and friends are at the mercy of TDCJ when it comes to being able to communicate with and visit their incarcerated loved one. Shouldn't there be more opportunities for these relationships to be built upon, strengthened, and maintained?

There are several areas where TDCJ has the obligation to amend their policies in order to create space for families to feel more whole while someone is serving their sentence: weddings, wedding rings, extended family visits.

Currently, on-site weddings are limited to the inmate, the spouse, and the officiant; family members are not able to be present, and there is no special contact visit before or after the short ceremony. Imagine getting married to the love of your life without the traditional ceremony, with no family or friends in attendance, and then waving goodbye to your spouse without getting to hug and hold them for a few minutes. Human connection and relationships are vital to the mental health of those who are incarcerated and are fundamental characteristics of a civilized society. A small allowance by TDCJ for more intimate wedding ceremonies would be a huge improvement in the quality of life for its inmates.

Per TDCJ policy, those who are incarcerated within TDCJ are not allowed to have wedding bands unless they had one upon their incarceration. This means that anyone who gets married during their incarceration is unable to have the basic symbol of love on their finger as a daily reminder that they are not alone. A wedding band is a very personal item that should be allowed for those who are married, regardless of when the ceremony took place. Having a simple silicone band (even white) approved by TDCJ would be a huge victory to those who have declared their love to someone in marriage, and would further cement the familial bonds that have shown to reduce negative behaviors.

TDCJ does not currently allow those who are incarcerated to have extended family visits with a spouse or domestic partner, though they are currently allowed in four other states. Although society primarily refers to these as "conjugal visits", rather than "family visits", they are not just about sex; in fact, kids are allowed to stay overnight, too! The ability for someone to build upon and strengthen their family relationships, or to potentially add to their family, should not be reserved solely for those who are not incarcerated.

Having hope for the future should be rampant amongst those who are incarcerated, not uncommon. Feeling loved, being able to express love, and having hope does not add additional costs to taxpayers, but has a huge and lasting positive impact on the well-being of those who live within the walls of Texas prisons. It is imperative that Texas lawmakers introduce, support, and pass legislation and regulations to uphold and strengthen family bonds, and to create opportunities for breaking the cycle of dysfunctional family patterns.

Your support of this effort is greatly appreciated by those who are currently serving time in TDCJ prisons, those on the "outside" who love them, and those who are fierce advocates for prisoner's rights. 

32 have signed. Let’s get to 50!