Social support from outside the walls: Examining the role of relationship dynamics among inmates and visitors

Travis J. Meyers, Kevin Wright, Jacob Young, Melinda Tasca

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objectives Prison visitation serves as a critical setting by which prison life intersects with civilian life. Yet, visitation research has produced conflicting findings. Using social support theory, we fill gaps in the literature by exploring three research questions: 1) What forms do relational dynamics and exchanges with visitors take? 2) What inmate characteristics are associated with these different types of dynamics and exchanges with visitors? And, 3) what effect do such experiences have on perceptions of reentry social support? Methods Data were drawn from the Arizona Prison Visitation Project, which includes information on 687 visitors nested within 227 inmates. Latent class analysis and hierarchical generalized linear models were used to carry out these objectives. Results Both supportive and unsupportive visitors were identified. Individuals who were female, younger, had a higher number of previous incarcerations, and those visited by parents or partners were more likely to have supportive visitors. Inmates with visitors characterized as supportive had an increased expectation of instrumental support available upon release. Conclusions Social support theory furthers understanding of visitation and its effects and provides useful directions for policy and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-67
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Criminal Justice
StatePublished - Sep 1 2017


  • Prison
  • Relationships
  • Social support
  • Visitation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Law


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