This Essay responds to Boudin, Stutz & Littman, Prison Visitation Policies: A Fifty State Survey, by placing American visitation policies in a global context. American prison visitation polices are unique among advanced democracies. Other nations, particularly in Western Europe, have far more liberal policies. Prisons in the United Kingdom, Canada, and Finland feature mother/baby units and family visitation centers. In Denmark and Norway, prisoners are granted passes to visit family. These policies encourage visitation. Increased visitation is linked to lower recidivism, so adopting such policies would potentially lower prison populations in the United States. The Essay acknowledges that following other nations’ lead in visitation polices will not necessarily increase visitation. Also, liberal visitation policies run the risk of reinforcing the “prison-industrial complex” and normalizing mass incarceration in American culture. But the experiences of other nations demonstrate that liberalized visitation could change American criminal justice for the better.
Giovanna Shay, Visiting Room: A Response to Prison Visitation Policies: A Fifty-State Survey, 32 YALE LAW & POL'Y REV. 191 (2013) (invited response to Boudin, Stutz & Littman, Prison Visitation Policies: A Fifty State Survey)