TDOC Expands Overnight Child Visitation

Thursday, January 05, 2017 | 09:30pm

HENNING - The Tennessee Department of Correction has long recognized the need for mothers and their children to bond while the children are young.  Last month, TDOC expanded its overnight child visitation capacity with the opening of the new Child Visitation Building at the Women’s Therapeutic Residential Center.  This innovative program helps offenders keep positive familial ties strong throughout their incarceration.  This not only curbs generational criminal behavior, but it also assists with family reunification post incarceration.  In fact, the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) research shows children who are allowed to bond with the parent, during the parent’s period of incarceration, have a better chance of breaking the generational cycle of criminal behavior.

This program is closely monitored as the safety of the child visitors are of the utmost importance to the Department. The inmate-mother must be classified to a medium custody level or below and be free of all serious disciplinary infractions before approval for weekend visitation is granted. Offenders convicted of a sex offense, child abuse, or child neglect are not permitted to participate.  Also, the mother must successfully complete a parenting program prior to approval for overnight child visitation.  In addition, the child’s legal guardian must give consent for the child to visit, complete an application and have a certified birth certificate on file. Finally, correctional staff are within the building at all times supervising the visit.

During the visitation, the mother must supervise her child at all times. Failure to maintain supervision may cause the visit to be suspended and may jeopardize future visits. The child’s guardian must provide a telephone number where they can be reached at all times and be willing to pick up the child in the event of an emergency or if the child becomes ill during the visit.

The Child Visitation Building is a separate secure building and away from other inmates. The rooms are equipped with bedding for the female offender and her child.  During the visit, meals for the mother and child are served in the kitchenette area.  Also, the building is furnished with a television and toys. 

Pictures of the rooms and common areas are available on the TDOC flickr site: