Revisiting the Effect of Visitation on Recidivism [2018]

Scholarship suggests that prison inmates who are visited may be less likely to recidivate. Questions exist, however, about whether the observed relationship is causal and, if so, whether it is consistent for different groups of inmates. To address these questions, this study employs two methodological approaches – first, conventional regression analyses and, second, instrumental variable (IV) analyses – to examine the effects of visitation in general and specifically for females, young inmates, and individuals incarcerated for the first time. Effect size estimates are similar across the two analytic approaches, but conventional regression analyses identify a statistically significant effect of visitation, whereas IV analyses do not. Subgroup analyses suggest differences between males and females and by age. Combined, the results raise questions about whether visitation exerts a causal effect on offending. Implications for theory, research, and policy of the divergent results and the potential for a generalized visitation effect are discussed.

Joshua C. Cochran, J. C. Barnes, Daniel P. Mears & William D. Bales
Justice Quarterly, 27 Dec 2018