Did you know that a visit from a family member can reduce a prisoner’s chances of returning to prison by as much as 25 percent?
A 2012 publication from the American Correctional Association explains why: “Family members provide both social control and social support, which inhibit criminal activity.” A prisoner who gets visitors is less likely to commit another crime and return to prison, because they know that their family cares about them and depends on them.
However, it can be difficult for families to maintain a close relationship with their loved one in prison. Challenges such as the distance to the prison, limited visitation time, and constant surveillance can be hard to overcome. It can also be emotionally draining to invest in a loved one who has broken their trust and plays little part in their daily lives.
This was the case for Brooke, an eight year old whose mother decided it was too difficult to maintain a relationship with her ex-husband (and Brooke’s father), Daniel. When she remarried, she asked Daniel not to contact Brooke anymore so that she could adjust to her stepdad.
Now an adult, Brooke wanted to know if her birth father still remembered her. She wrote Dan a letter, beginning “I don’t know if you’ll remember me or not, [but] my name’s Brooke and I’m your daughter.”
Brooke told her dad that she had used a calculator to add up the days since she had last heard from him: 2,920 days. “Each and every day you were the person on my mind,” she wrote. “Each day I wondered if I was still yours.”
Daniel recounts receiving Brooke’s letter in an article for the Marshall Project, and the flood of memories that ensued. He remembered teaching her how to tie her shoes and sharing slices of cake with her on her half-birthday. When his ex-wife asked him not to contact Brooke anymore, he had cried for months, wondering if Brooke would even remember him.
Now he realized Brooke had missed him just as much as he missed her.
When the day of Brooke’s first visit to the prison arrived, Dan was nervous. But as he stepped into the prison’s visiting room he saw a face that he recognized— it was Brooke! He gave her a huge hug, and smiled as she began to talk in run-on sentences, just like he did.
Visits like Brooke’s can have a profound impact on mothers and fathers behind bars. By having the opportunity to see their children face-to-face, they are able to reconnect to a world beyond prison, and are often inspired to become the loving and supportive parents they wish they had been before.
Prison Fellowship works to reduce recidivism and restore family members like Brooke and Dan. To learn how you can be involved, visit www.prisonfellowship.org.