Supporting the families of prisoners could significantly cut crime, according to international research.
A conference in Edinburgh on Monday will hear that inmates who keep up family ties are up to six times less likely to reoffend.
Scotland's prisons now run a range of programmes to help those behind bars keep contact with their families.
But delegates at the conference, organised by Families Outside, will be told that the support is too patchy.
The gathering, which will attract experts from throughout the UK, will hear from the family members of prisoners.
They are expected to say that the experience of having a loved one locked up is like being in a "prison with no bars".
Angela Morgan, director of Families Outside, said: "There is now good evidence that if support is given to prisoners' families this has a beneficial effect for not only the families and their relative in prison, but also for society.
"The benefits of family life are widely accepted - this is no less true for prisoners than for anyone else."
The conference will be addressed by a range of speakers describing projects and approaches which can provide families with the support, information and involvement they need to play a part in their relatives' rehabilitation.
PAYING THE COST
There will also be a keynote speech from Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson.
The chief inspector of prisons, Dr Andrew McLellan, will chair the conference at the Roxburgh Hotel in the capital.
He said: "The room for visits is such an important room in a prison - most prisoners would say the most important room.
"Good family relationships will keep prisoners out of trouble in the future - the cost of breakdown in family relationships will be paid for years to come."
Scotland continues to have a big problem with reoffending.
The latest statistics showed that two thirds of people being sentenced have a previous conviction.
© BBC News, 2004