How this federal 'family only' prison policy is playing out in Philly - Generocity Philly

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Dec. 13, 2016 8:08 am

How this federal ‘family only’ prison policy is playing out in Philly

Prison visits are proven to reduce recidivism rates, but a new federal policy is keeping inmates from their loved ones. Philly criminal defense attorney Dana Bazelon explains how for Vox.

Lil' hand.

(Photo by Flickr user Niklas Morberg, used under a Creative Commons license)

This past summer, the Federal Detention Center enacted an “immediate family only” prison visitation policy to quell the number of visitors moving in and out of prisons.

But “immediate family” is defined by Bureau of Prisons (BOP) as parents, siblings, spouses and children. (See page four of this BOP document, published in July.) That doesn’t include romantic partners — who in turn can’t bring children conceived within those relationships to visit. Dana Bazelon, a criminal defense attorney in Philadelphia, wrote about the impact the policy has had on her clients for Vox.

“I have been doing this work for nearly 10 years, and I cannot think of a single indigent client I have represented who is married,” she wrote. “The facilities that limit visitation to ‘immediate family’ are out of step with the world that most criminal defendants live in.”

And out of step with contemporary studies on the positive impact prison visits can have on recidivism rates; one Minnesota study determined a single visit can reduce recidivism by 13 percent for new crimes.

Bazelon predicts these restrictive policies will only continue to tighten up under Trump.

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