The Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) plans to zero out funding for initiatives that help families to visit loved ones in prison.
According to the Department's own research, regular in-person family visits while in prison are the number one intervention to prevent recidivism.
It's time to tell Governor Shapiro to reinstate funding for family connection.
For two decades the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections has funded efforts to promote in-person family visiting including providing an affordable bus service so that families two or more hours away from a prison could regularly see their loved ones behind bars.
During the pandemic, when in-person visits stopped, this funding stopped.
It is time to bring it back.
Family visits reduce crime.
Making sure that people in prison don't commit crimes when they come home is the stated mission of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections. That's why, for decades the Department invested in the number one intervention that helps people who return from prison stay out of prison – family connection. According to the Department of Corrections 2022 recidivism report, regular, in person family visits were correlated in a 20% reduction in recidivism.
Research elsewhere confirms these findings – the key to someone returning from prison and staying crime free is maintaining and strengthening family connection while in prison through in person visits.
Families want to visit but can't.
Every single day the Prison Society gets calls from families asking when the DOC will restart the bus service to help families visit.
Lakyra Stokes is one of the people who has called us. Lakyra used to make the two-and-a-half-hour trip from Philadelphia to see her husband in SCI Waymart every other week. Lakyra says the rides enabled her to visit her husband more regularly. "The bus definitely alleviates a lot of the stress,” she says. Nothing can replace visiting in person, Lakyra says, even the free video visits the DOC started providing during the pandemic.
"I know things are going to be okay, eventually, when he hugs me," she says. “It releases some sort of happiness that causes you to be more productive.” And it has the same effect on her husband.
"It gives him this drive, like, 'Yeah, I’ve gotta work harder to get home.'”
Take Action! Tell Governor Shapiro to reinstate funding for family connection. Send your letter here: Governor Josh Shapiro (pa.gov)
Or if you would like to call the Governor’s office and let them know your support via phone call, please call (717) 787-2500 during regular business hours.
Want guidance on what to say? Use our sample below:
Governor Shapiro, according to the Department of Corrections 2022 Recidivism Report the most effective intervention in reducing recidivism is frequent in-person family visits while in prison. For 20 years, the Department of Corrections has funded programs to encourage family visits, in particular funding transport for families who lived great distances from where their loved ones were incarcerated. This year's proposed Department of Corrections budget zeros out this funding. Please reinstate funding in the Department of Corrections budget to help people visit their incarcerated loved ones. It is a small investment with a big benefit to community safety.