I Need to Feel Your Touch: Allowing Newborns and Infants Contact Visitation with Jailed Parents

While incarceration is intended to affect the well-being of the offender, the separation it causes can have equally devastating effects on the innocent children of the incarcerated. The lack of physical contact with jailed parents can affect a young child’s social development, which can lead to mental health problems as well as an increased potential for criminal behavior. The lack of physical contact can also lead to increased rates of recidivism in parents and increased likelihood of experiencing a termination of parental rights. Despite these effects, most jails do not allow young children contact visitation with jailed parents because of costs and security concerns.This Note examines jail contact visitation policies—or lack thereof—with respect to parents of young children and argues that county jails should be required to allow parents of both genders contact visitation with their children who are under two years of age. To address the power of local jail administrators, this Note proposes state legislation mandating that county jails establish contact visitation programs, but which allows local administrators flexibility in the implementation of the program. To adequately address the problems that arise from a lack of contact, the Author argues that any program must be available to both mothers and fathers, must be available to pretrial detainees as well as convicted offenders, and must be implemented over the likely objection of local administrators. Ultimately, the Author concludes that contact visitation between young children and their jailed parents is essential to the well-being of the children, parents, and society as a whole.

The full text of this Note is available to download as a PDF.