Prisoners' Children: What Are the Issues?

Prisoners' Children: What Are the Issues?

Prisoners' Children: What Are the Issues?

Prisoners' Children: What Are the Issues?

Excerpt

The difficulties and problems experienced by prisoners’ families were first brought to serious attention by the work of Pauline Morris in the early 1960s. However, while many changes have taken place in criminal justice since that time, little has changed for the children of prisoners. The unintended punishment inflicted on children by sentences of imprisonment imposed on their parents is not easy to nullify. The justice system is based on the principle of acquitting the innocent and punishing the guilty, consequently those who uphold it cannot afford to accept that by imprisoning a mother or father they may punish the innocent child more than the criminal parent. Nevertheless, some efforts are now being made to research the extent of the problem and to do something to try to reduce the negative, unintended consequences of parental imprisonment on the tens of thousands of children who experience it each year in the United Kingdom.

The purpose of this book is to bring together, in one volume, the findings of recent research and the ideas being put into practice by those who work in different parts of the criminal justice system. It presents a challenge to those retributivists who attempt to ignore the unintended effects of an incarceration policy by arguing that the offender should have thought about the consequences. Such an ideology implies that it is acceptable for guiltless children to suffer if that is necessary for maximum general deterrence and public protection. But today there are more than half a million children in Britain who have experienced the imprisonment of their parent. Can that still be justified? What are the effects? What can and should be done to reduce the harm? What are the issues?

The editor wishes to express his thanks to all the contributors for their co-operation and for agreeing to share this volume with authors from a wide range of disciplines and backgrounds. No attempt has been made to make the various contributions conform to a common pattern of ideology or style. Each addresses the issues from the special knowledge and experience of its author. This interdisciplinary approach will, it is hoped, help develop an awareness of the plight of prisoners’ children and move them closer to the centre of the penal debate.

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