Families in Touch: Volunteer Drivers Needed

Project NIA is launching a new initiative called Families in Touch. Our goal is to ensure that the young women who are incarcerated at the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville have continued support in their communities by getting visits from family members on a regular basis. This initiative seeks to provide support for families to overcome transportation barriers that impede even periodic visitation. You will help keep families in touch despite incarceration and in doing so we hope to help to address recidivism rates.

We are calling on volunteers to drive families to Warrenville to visit their youth. As a driver your responsibility will be to pick up no more than three people and take them directly to the Warrenville Youth Center.

Please note that your responsibility to families as a Project NIA volunteer does not extend beyond transportation to and from the facility. That said, feel free to provide further assistance for families as long as it does not interfere with the visit. Project NIA will help to subsidize the trip by reimbursing up to $15 for the cost of gas!

Requirements to be a driver with Families in Touch:

1. Attend a meeting at the NIA Peace Room, 7035 N. Clark St., on Saturday, April 16th from 1:30 p.m. to 5:00 where you will get details on where and when you will pick up families.

2. Have a driver’s license and car with valid insurance and registration.

3. Be able to drive a family to IYC Warrenville one day per month (more opportunities might come up!)

4. Be willing to sign waivers required by the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice.

5. Be a conscientious and compassionate person and be ready to adapt to new situations.

If you have questions please call or email

Tobin Shelton

Just Seeds Portfolio Project

Data suggests that more than half of all prisoners do not receive in-person visits from family members (Mumola, 2000). There are a variety of explanations for why families may not visit, including distance of the prison, financial burdens, problems with the prison bureaucracy, and strained or severed relationships with the prisoner (Hairston, 2003).

A study from the Office on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) summarizing findings from the Survey on Youth in Residential Placement (SYRP) offers the following important information about family contact for youth in custody:

  • The vast majority of youth in custody across the U.S. (92%) said that since arriving at their facility, they had some contact with their families, either through phone calls or through visits.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 spoke with their family on the telephone, and more than 2/3 had an in-person family visit.
  • The percentage of youth in contact with their family members varied by facility type. While most youth have spoken with their family on the phone, fewer youth in detention (80%) and camps (74%) have done so compared to those in other programs (93%).
  • Fewer youth in corrections (61%) and camp programs (63%) report in-person visits with their families.
  • Frequency of family contact also depends on the program. Youth in corrections and camp programs are nearly twice as likely to have a low rate of family contact. Thirty-nine percent of corrections and camp youth have family contact less than once a week, compared with 20 percent in other programs.
  • One-third (33%) of youth who have no in-person visits indicate that this is due to time constraints (facility visiting hours are inconvenient) or distance (their family lives too far away).
  • One-fifth of youth who have no phone calls or no visits say that their families have resource constraints (e.g. a phone call would be long distance, a visit would cost too much, or the family does not have transportation).
  • About one in seven (14 percent) youth without contact claim that the lack of contact exists because their facility does not allow it.
  • Relatively youth without contact say it is because they do not want to talk or visit with their family (7 percent) or because their family does not want to talk or visit with them (6 percent).
  • The majority of all youth in custody (59%) say that it would take their families 1 hour or longer to travel to visit them. For more than one-fourth of youth (28 percent), their families would have to travel 3 hours or longer to see them.

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