A great letter last week in the Fort Bend Star ("Sending Prisoners to Another Facility Disturbing," April 16, 2008) about the Ford Bend County Commission's decision to send county prisoners over 500 miles away to the Dickens County Correctional Center. According to the letter, authored by local resident Sue Ann Lorig (and referencing Texas Prison Bidness),
Although some of the Fort Bend County Commissioners find the location a joking matter, long-distance separation is not humorous to the families of inmates. When inmates are hundreds of miles away, few families can visit. Children especially suffer.
Children of incarcerated parents are at higher risk of incarceration themselves, and they exhibit many problems that accompany parental separation, especially (when) they can't even visit. For the inmates, family connections can mean the difference between future success and recidivism. Studies have shown that continued contact with family can reduce prisoner recidivism.
Certainly long-distance separation of prisoners from their families can have devastating impacts. Just last spring at the Dickens County Correctional Center, Idaho inmate Scot Noble Payne committed suicide after enduring what the AP later called "squalid" conditions. The Idaho Department of Corrections health director later called the facility the worst prison he'd ever seen and "beyond repair."