University of Leicester
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Penalising prisoners, penalising families : the difficulties of maintaining contact with prisoners through prison visits

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posted on 2014-12-15, 10:36 authored by Christine. Magill
This research considers the difficulties that are encountered when visiting a loved one or relative who is in prison. Early research in this area drew attention to the Prison Service's lack of consideration for families visiting prisons (see Matthews. 1983 1989). Following the Woolf Report (1991) and subsequent reforms, commentators were optimistic that, at last, the Prison Service was starting to address issues relating to prisoners' families. However, much has happened within the prison system since this time - numbers in prison have increased, there has been a renewed emphasis on security, order and control in prison, and a requirement to reduce drug misuse amongst prisoners. The present study reviews the situation in view of these developments. Theoretically, this research draws upon recent feminist work to emerge from North America that focused on the 'hidden' implications of crime control policies for women outside the criminal justice process (see Miller. 1998 Danner. 1998 Massey et al. 1998). Prisoners' families constitute one group with whom this new approach is concerned. This latest feminist endeavour aims to change criminal justice policies and practices so as to lessen the costs to women and children. This aim also formed the rationale for the present study. A multi-method approach was employed. This included a survey of 133 prisons in England and Wales (a response rate of 67% was obtained) and interviews with thirty prison visitors at two prisons. Observational data was also collected at these two prisons. The findings suggest that prisoners' families continue to be ignored by a prison system that treats them as little more than a resource, removed from penal considerations yet entwined into policy when their assistance is required. A number of recommendations for changes to penal policy and practice designed to improve the situation for prisoners' families are proposed.


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Public order

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University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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