Families, Imprisonment and Legitimacy: The Cost of Custodial Penalties, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Families, Imprisonment and Legitimacy

The Cost of Custodial Penalties, 1st Edition

By Cara Jardine


192 pages

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Hardback: 9781138329348
pub: 2019-09-24
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This book examines what it means to be a family within the restrictive, disruptive and often distressing context of imprisonment. Drawing on original qualitative data, it looks beyond traditional models of the family to examine the question of which relationships matter to individuals affected by imprisonment, and demonstrates how family relationships are actively constructed and maintained through family "practices" and "displays" such as visits, shared experiences and continuing family memories and traditions. It sheds new light not only on the true extent of who is impacted by the imposition of a prison sentence, but also the barriers to family life that these individuals encounter throughout its duration.

This book also contributes to our understanding of wider issues such as poverty and social marginalisation, the role of family relationships on desistance from crime, and legitimacy. It argues that the act of supporting an individual in custody can bring families into regular contact with the criminal justice system in ways that can be both distressing and problematic, and therefore contends that the prison system should minimise the damage caused by imprisonment not only to family relationships, but also to the perceived legitimacy of the criminal justice system.

Generating new conceptual insights into the harms of imprisonment and how perceptions of legitimacy and fairness are shaped by the criminal justice system, this book will be of much interest to students of criminology and sociology engaged in studies of criminal justice, prisons, gender, social work, and punishment. It will also be of interest to policy makers, penal-reformers, and activists.


"In this important and innovative work Cara Jardine extends and deepens our understanding of the consequences of imprisonment. Prisons disrupt lives, not only of those whom we punish by sending there, but of families, friends and sometimes whole communities. Jardine's meticulous and empathic research illuminates these wider impacts, and in so doing subtly urges a searching reappraisal of the social uses of the prison."

Richard Sparks, Professor of Criminology, University of Edinburgh, UK

"Families, Imprisonment and Legitimacy" is an intimate portrayal of the experiences of families who are affected by incarceration and offers sound remedies for rolling back the reach of the penal system in Scotland and abroad. Using the voices of the imprisoned and their relatives, Jardine’s qualitative analysis reveals the gendered costs of imprisonment as well as how incarceration intensifies marginalization and poverty for families interfacing with the criminal justice system. Her research demonstrates that while there is no singular type of family impacted by incarceration—mass imprisonment has dramatic consequences for us all.

Joyce A. Arditti, Ph.D, Professor of Human Development and Family Science, Virginia Tech, and author of Parental Incarceration: A Family Perspective.

Table of Contents

1. Theorising Families Affected by Imprisonment; 2. Difference; 3. Sameness; 4. Being a Family; 5. Entrenching Marginalisation; 6. Beyond the family: prisons and legitimacy; 7. Conclusion

About the Author

Cara Jardine is a Teaching Associate at the University of Strathclyde, UK.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Crime, Justice and the Family

This series is the first series of its kind for Criminology. It offers a space to capture work on a range of topics that share the common theme of the relationship between crime, justice and the family, and aims to interrogate common-sense understandings of this relationship to explore just who is affected by crime and how they are affected, whether as primary or secondary victims or as parents, children, spouses, or other kinds of offenders.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / Marriage & Family