Prison Experiences, Social Ties, and Inmate Behavior: Examining Visitation and Its Effects on Incarceration and Reentry Outcomes
Cochran, Joshua C. (author)
Mears, Daniel P. (professor directing dissertation)
Radey, Melissa (university representative)
Bales, William D. (committee member)
Siennick, Sonja E. (committee member)
Stewart, Eric A. (committee member)
College of Criminology and Criminal Justice (degree granting department)
Florida State University (degree granting institution)
A large body of scholarship has focused on the factors that lead to improved prison social order and prisoner reentry outcomes. Research suggests that one such factor, social ties, are especially salient for helping individuals manage the myriad of challenges they face during incarceration and during the transition back into society. For example, social ties can help inmates cope with strain (Sykes 1958; Adams 1992), they can exert informal social control (Sampson and Laub 1993), they can help offset negative social stigma (Pager 2003; Uggen et al. 2004), and they can assist inmates with the practical challenges associated with reintegration back into society and after release from prison (Petersilia 2003; Visher and Travis 2003; Maruna and Immarigeon 2004; Naser and La Vigne 2006; Berg and Huebner 2011). This diverse body of research has spurred scholars to examine how the maintenance of social ties during prison contributes to in-prison and reentry outcomes (Wolff and Draine 2004; Naser and La Vigne 2006; Cobbina et al. 2012). To this end, scholars have focused on inmate visitation because it provides access to social ties during incarceration (e.g., Ohlin 1951; Glaser 1964; Holt and Miller 1972; Hairston 1988; Bales and Mears 2008; Siennick et al. 2013). Indeed, with few exceptions, visitation provides the only opportunity for inmates to have direct contact with family, friends, and community members. In so doing, it affords inmates some ability to preserve, develop, or sustain ties to social networks outside of prison, and to have sources of social capital on which to draw during and after incarceration. This dissertation contributes to scholarship on prison visitation, prison experiences, and social ties in several ways. First, it examines systematically the heterogeneity of prison visitation and advances a conceptual framework for theorizing, evaluating, and guiding visitation research. Second, it explores who is visited in prison by testing the relationship between a range of individual- and community-level factors and the frequency of visitation. Third, it explores the longitudinal patterns of visitation that inmates experience and assesses the extent to which these patterns are associated with in-prison misconduct. Fourth, and finally, it tests the effects of different visitation patterns on the likelihood of recidivism. Data for this dissertation were provided by the Florida Department of Corrections and include detailed information for all convicted felony offenders released from Florida prisons between 2000 and 2002. The data have several attributes that make them ideal for this study: they include inmates from multiple facilities across a single state, males and females, and large proportions of inmates from different racial and ethnic groups. Most importantly, and unusual in prison studies, the data contain comprehensive records of visitation events, which allow for analyses that can examine visitation experiences longitudinally. Analyses of the data point to several key findings. They highlight the heterogeneity inherent in inmate visitation, they identify several factors that are associated with visitation, and they underscore the salience of visitation for improving in-prison and post-release outcomes. More broadly, the findings underscore the need for more systematic analysis of prison experiences and their effects on prison social order and reentry. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of additional implications of the findings for theory, research, and policy.
prison, prison social order, recidivism, reentry, social ties, visitation
March 1, 2013.
A Dissertation submitted to the College of Criminology and Criminal Justice in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Includes bibliographical references.
Daniel P. Mears, Professor Directing Dissertation; Melissa Radey, University Representative; William D. Bales, Committee Member; Sonja E. Siennick, Committee Member; Eric A. Stewart, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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