This paper reviews research on the social functions of prisoner-family ties. Three areas are examined: the preservation of marital units and parentchild bonds; the individual well-being of prisoners, children and other family members; and the prisoner's post-release success. The literature indicates that the maintenance of family ties during imprisonment is desirable, but difficult. Benefits suggested by empirical findings include decreased rates of recidivism following imprisonment, improved mental health of inmates and other family members, and an increased probability of reunification of the family household following imprisonment. The paper concludes with the identification of an agenda to guide future policy and program-oriented research. Prisoners' family relationships and social