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Abstract

This Feature presents a summary of the findings from a survey of prison visitation policies in the fifty states and in the system run by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). The lives of prisoners and their families are deeply affected by visitation policies and, to date, there has been no comprehensive effort to compare these policies across all of the fifty states. We embarked on the project with three primary goals. First, we wanted to provide for relatively easy state-by-state comparisons across a group of common visitation-related categories. Second, we hoped to identify similarities and differences across states in the categories we tracked. Third, we sought to encourage more and improved visitation opportunities for inmates. The dataset presented here is the first to explore the contours of how prison administrators use their discretion in prescribing visitation policies. This comparative analysis has many uses, both in identifying best practices and in uncovering practices that warrant concern as a matter of law or policy.

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