Iowans in prison are once again being allowed to visit with their loved ones face-to-face after 16 months of no in-person contact. Visits at state prisons resumed last weekend, though social distancing and other restrictions are still in place.

After more than a year of video calls, Lisa — whose last name was withheld — says she was able to see her husband at the Newton Correctional Facility. “That physical touch means everything and it just changes it,” Lisa says. “When you’re on a screen and you’ve got — are my headphones working? Is my microphone working? I have to be careful as to what’s in my background.”

In-person visits had to be abandoned in March of 2020 due to the pandemic and for many inmates and their families, the wait was excruciating. Lisa was able to reunite with her husband last weekend. “It was kind of bittersweet, but it was really nice to see him there,” she says. “They’ve been great with the video visits, but that’s only 20 minutes, twice a week, and it’s just not the same. So it was really great to be able to be back over there.”

Researchers have demonstrated that maintaining family bonds during incarceration reduces recidivism. Advocates in Iowa hope to see visiting policies expanded to allow more time with loved ones.

(By Kate Payne, Iowa Public Radio)