As noted in the Aug. 21 editorial, the Maine Department of Corrections is proposing to do away with its current policy of requiring contact visits in county jails every two weeks.

The DOC has looked the other way, while county jails have flouted this policy. The Press Herald editors noted that the policy change would not/could not keep drugs out of county jails as touted.

Nor would it make jails safer. The policy change means the DOC is reneging on its commitment to best practices in Maine’s county jails. Why should we be concerned:

Community safety – numerous studies show that maintaining strong ties with family and friends through contact visits decreases recidivism. That means less crime, less victims, and fewer people incarcerated.

Costs of incarceration – contact visits have been shown to decrease the number and percentage of repeat offenders( recidivists) decreasing the number of people incarcerated, decreasing the need for continued increases in county jail budgets, which in some cases are rising at a rate higher than the costs of public education.

Prison safety – Contact visits serve as an incentive for positive inmate behavior. Inmates who follow jail rules/policy are allowed contact visits. Those who do not must settle for non-contact/video visits. Jails that take away this incentive see a rise in inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-corrections officer violence.

Childhood outcomes – Parental incarceration is a stressful event in a child’s life equal to divorce and/or death. Children who are allowed to maintain their bond with their parent through contact visits have much better outcomes in education, mental health, and life.

Mental health – As many as 70 percent of inmates suffer from one or more mental health diagnoses. Withdrawing touch from those inmates only adds to their mental health issues.

Eliminating contact visits from county jails ignores the long-term costs of such a policy.

As taxpayers and members of the community, we should vehemently object to such a policy, not only on humanitarian grounds, but also on the basis of our pocketbooks and personal and community safety.