Massachusetts prisons will limit visitors for inmates

February 24, 2018
The Boston Globe
By Mark Arsenault

In reviewing the 16 years Bob Wojcik served in state prison, the Massachusetts Parole Board found a lot to like, particularly his commitment to rehabilitation and lack of disciplinary problems. But it was more than just his behavior inside the prison. The board twice cited Wojcik’s strong community support in its 2009 decision to release him.

Prison visits played a major role in staying connected to family and friends, Wojcik says. That’s why he opposes a new Department of Correction policy that will cap the number of visitors inmates can have.

State officials say the change will help reduce drug smuggling, a longtime problem in the prison system, and that the average inmate will not be affected by the limits. But advocates for prisoners say the restrictions will weaken family and community bonds for many inmates, potentially leading to greater recidivism.

Prisoner advocates say the limits are likely to lead to fewer overall visits, weakening the connection between inmates and the community. The strength of these connections are a strong predictor for whether an inmate is likely to return to crime upon release, said Leslie Walker, director of Prisoners’ Legal Services, a nonprofit advocate for the humane treatment of inmates.

“There is plenty of research out there,” Walker said. “If this is going to risk increasing recidivism, then why? Why bother? Why now?”

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