Are All Welcome? An Empirical Examination of Visitor Networks Among Incarcerated Youth

AuthorBrae Young
Published date01 August 2022
Date01 August 2022
Subject MatterArticles
Criminal Justice Policy Review
2022, Vol. 33(7) 688 –710
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/08874034221090642
Are All Welcome? An
Empirical Examination of
Visitor Networks Among
Incarcerated Youth
Brae Young1
Although research finds that visitation can be quite beneficial for incarcerated youth,
there is variability in when visits matter. One source of heterogeneity is who visits, with
existing research finding that certain visitor types are more helpful than others. What
has yet to be considered, though, is the importance of visitor networks as a whole.
Using latent class analysis, this study examines whether incarcerated youths’ visitors
form unique networks, and whether the visitation-recidivism relationship differs
across these groups. Results indicate that youths’ visitors fall into three categories:
caretakers, immediate family, or a full network of visitors, and that the visitation-
recidivism relationship differs across these groups. The results underscore the need
for future research to consider not only the individual visitors that incarcerated
persons receive but also their visitor network as a whole.
prison visitation, family support, juveniles, juvenile justice
Family social ties play a critical role in the lives of children and adolescents. Children
rely on family to form the secure attachments necessary for healthy socialization, the
development of self-control, and the modeling of appropriate behavior (Akers et al.,
1979; Gottfredson & Hirschi, 1990; Hay, 2001; Hope et al., 2012). Family ties are also
1Texas Christian University, Fort Worth, USA
Corresponding Author:
Brae Young, Department of Criminal Justice, Texas Christian University, 2855 Main Drive, Fort Worth,
TX 76109, USA.
1090642CJPXXX10.1177/08874034221090642Criminal Justice Policy ReviewYoung
Young 689
a key source of emotional support as youth navigate their way into adulthood (Grusec,
2011; Lugo-Gil & Tamis-LeMonda, 2008; Walberg & Marjoribanks, 1976). Although
social ties are critical for all youth, they may be particularly important for incarcerated
youth. During confinement, youth are removed from friends, family, and the commu-
nity and must contend with a more structured and stressful environment (Johnson &
Toch, 1982; Sickmund & Puzzanchera, 2014; Sparks et al., 1996). Having access to
social ties during this time, though, can help anchor youth to the outside world and
provide them with the support they might need to survive the difficult conditions of
confinement (Meyers et al., 2017; Turanovic & Tasca, 2019).
Accordingly, research finds that the average juvenile benefits from contact, particu-
larly visits: youth who receive visits are significantly less likely to violate institutional
rules (Agudelo, 2013) and experience mental health issues during confinement and are
less likely to recidivate after release (Ryan & Yang, 2005). Research also suggests some
visitors are more beneficial than others (Duwe & Clark, 2011; Mears et al., 2012; Meyers
et al., 2017). Meyers and colleagues (2017) found that parents and romantic partners
offer the most supportive visits, and Mears and his colleagues (2012) reported that visits
from spouses and significant others were the most beneficial for reducing recidivism.
What we do not yet know is whether visitor types are patterned and whether certain
combinations are more helpful than others (for an exception see: Hickert, 2021). It is
possible that because of efforts to promote visitation within juvenile residential facilities,
youth receive visits from a wide variety of visitors like parents, siblings, and extended
family. There are numerous barriers to visitation, though (e.g., financial costs, distance
to the facility, and limited visitation hours; Young et al., 2019), which could result in
some youth receiving visits from a narrower network. It is also possible that because
different relationships provide different support and services (Turanovic & Tasca, 2019),
visitation effects differ depending upon the composition of this network.
Against this backdrop, the goal of this study is to provide a better understanding of
incarcerated youths’ social networks. More specifically, using a sample of youth
released from residential placement in Florida (N = 827), this article considers whether
there are different combinations of visitors that are more common than others and
whether the visitation-recidivism relationship depends upon the composition of youths’
visitor network. Latent class analysis (LCA) is used to identify patterns of visitors in the
data, and logistic regression is used to examine whether the effects of visitation fre-
quency on recidivism differ by visitor group. This article contributes to the growing
body of work designed to understand the heterogeneity of the carceral experience gen-
erally, but the complexities of social ties during confinement, in particular. By focusing
on a sample of incarcerated youth, this study also seeks to offer greater insight into the
visitation experiences of a group typically understudied in this body of literature.
The Importance of Social Ties During Confinement
Social ties are critical for youth. In the first decade of life, children rely on parents to
provide for their basic emotional and physical needs. Children learn self-control,
healthy socialization, and appropriate behavior through their interactions with, and

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