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Family Visits Could Improve Juvenile Delinquents’ Behavior

The Vera Institute for Justice is studying the effects Indiana's expanded visiting hours are having on incarcerated youth.

student in handcuffs

Photo: FBI

The study is investigating whether increased visitations leads to a reduction in recidivism rates among juvenile delinquents.

Indiana juvenile corrections facilities are participating in a new study that seeks to determine whether family and social support for incarcerated minors helps improve behavior.

After a survey the Department of Corrections issued two years ago found families wanted more visiting time with their kids, the state expanded visiting hours at its juvenile correction facilities.

Mike Dempsey is the Executive Director of the Division of Youth Services at the Indiana Department of Corrections and says he saw dramatic improvements in the kids when they saw their parents more often.

“They are a lot more manageable, they have less frequent issues of disturbances or acting out, they seem to follow the rules more, they’re more engaged in school and their treatment programs,” Dempsey said.

Because of the success, the national nonprofit organization Vera Institute of Justice is now planning to study the effects expanded visiting hours have on incarcerated youth.

Ryan Shanahan is the Senior Program Associate at the Family Justice Program and says Indiana’s facilities provides researchers insights few programs can provide.

“We have to say this is one of the most unique visitation policies in the country,” Shanahan said. “I wouldn’t go as far as to say it’s the only one, but it’s very unique that gives this amount of access to families to see their loved ones who are incarcerated.”

The study will focus on inmates’ behavior, education and recidivism rates.

Claire McInerny

Claire McInerny is a reporter/producer for WFIU/WTIU news. She comes to WFIU/WTIU from KCUR in Kansas City. She graduated with a journalism degree from the University of Kansas where she discovered her passion for public media and the stories it tells. You can follow her on Twitter @ClaireMcInerny.

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