Prison Visits: Service is its Own Reward

Victoria Simpson Beck, College of Mount St. Joseph
Robert J. Ramsey, Indiana University East
Stephen C. Richards, University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh

This paper presents the observations and comments of a group of prison visitors, and provides further discussion on the social, personal, and academic advantages to be derived from visiting prisoners. More than half a century ago Sykes (1958) identified one of the five pains of imprisonment as a deep sense of rejection by the free community. This sense of community rejection is undoubtedly exacerbated by the placement of prisoners in institutions thousands of miles away from their families, reducing the likelihood of family visits. In response to this situation, prison visitation organizations have been created throughout the country that attempt to lessen this pain of imprisonment by engaging service-minded individuals in prison visits which benefit both the prisoners and the visitors. Prisoners benefit from these programs because communication with the free community tends to help improve their sense of self-worth and connectedness to the outside world; ultimately these visits could influence the prisoner's ability to effectively reintegrate into the broader society. Those who visit the prisoners also benefit because they are provided with a unique opportunity to fulfill social, personal and professional needs and objectives that result in both tangible and intangible rewards. One of the tangible rewards for visiting inside prisons is the heart felt gratitude expressed by the men and women for the time given to them. Additionally, the experience of visiting convicts can guide and improve the research and pedagogy of academics and researchers.

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Updated 05/20/2006