Family Matters. a critical examination of family visits for imprisoned mothers and their families
Whole families can experience serious disruptions and disadvantages when a mother is imprisoned . The enforced separation generated by prison creates challenges for sustaining meaningful mother-child relationships. This paper focuses on ‘family visits’; which are visiting opportunities generally designed to provide extended time and interaction between imprisoned parents and their children in the prison setting. The paper draws on the author’s doctoral research findings which explored the lives of families following the mother’s incarceration in England and Wales. Qualitative data was collected from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with fifteen imprisoned mothers and twenty-four caregivers (comprised of family members and friends) looking after children of female prisoners. Chiming with previous research, thematic data analysis revealed how family visits were highly valued and appreciated by families as they provided a special opportunity to engage in more ‘normalised’ family practices. However, extending prior knowledge, this study also identified how institutional barriers in the prison setting could hinder or prevent families from accessing and participating in family days. Practical recommendations attempt to respond to these issues, and to improve access and support for mother-child relationships during the mother’s incarceration.
Citation:Booth, N. (2018) Family Matters. a critical examination of family visits for imprisoned mothers and their families. Prison Service Journal.
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