Families Shamed: The Consequences of Crime for Relatives of Serious Offenders (Paperback) book cover

Families Shamed

The Consequences of Crime for Relatives of Serious Offenders

By Rachel Condry

© 2007 – Willan

232 pages

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This book examines the experiences of relatives of those accused or convicted of serious crimes such as murder, manslaughter, rape and sex offences. A broader literature exists on prisoners' families, but few studies have looked specifically at those related to serious offenders, or considered their experience other than as prison visitors. Many of the difficulties faced by 'mundane' prisoners' families are magnified for the relatives of serious offenders, first by the length of sentence, and secondly by the seriousness and stigmatizing impact through association of the offence itself.

Families Shamed draws upon intense qualitative research which combines long, searching interviews with the relatives of serious offenders with ethnographic fieldwork over a period of several years. The book focuses on how relatives made sense of their experiences, individually and collectively: how they described the difficulties they faced; whether they were blamed and shamed and in what manner; how they understood the offence and the circumstances which had brought it about; and how they dealt with the contradiction inherent in supporting someone and yet not condoning his or her actions.

This is the first book to tell the story of serious offenders' families, the difficulties they face, and their attempts to overcome them. At the same time a focus on offenders' families also draws our attention to the ways in which women are affected by crime, illuminating the broader effects of crime and the criminal justice process on the proportionately greater number of women involved. It contributes also to wider debates about the social organization of the meanings of crime, and questions the tenability of some core policy assumptions about offenders and their families; the relationship between the state and the family, and its bearing especially on expectations about family responsibilities.


'This is a pioneering study of the families of serious offenders;it explores the shame and stigma they experience in a careful and thoughtful way. Extremely well-written, it should be read by everybody with an interest in crime and punishment.' - Professor Frances Heidensohn, London School of Economics, UK

Table of Contents

Introduction 1. Discovering the offence 2. Life after discovery 3. Secondary stigma, shame and blame 4. Making sense of the offence 5. Relatives' own accounts 6. Self-help for families of serious offenders. Conclusion Appendix 1: Notes on methodology Appendix 2: Interviewee characteristics

About the Author

Rachel Condry is a Lecturer in Criminology, and a Fellow of St Hilda's College, Oxford University. Her research interests include: family violence; the families of offenders and victims; the family in youth justice; secondary victimization; narrative accounts and neutralizations; vicarious shame and stigma; the state regulation of parenting and family life.

About the Series

Routledge Advances in Ethnography

Ethnography is a celebrated, if contested, research methodology that offers unprecedented access to people's intimate lives, their often hidden social worlds and the meanings they attach to these.  The intensity of ethnographic fieldwork often makes considerable personal and emotional demands on the researcher, while the final product is a vivid human document with personal resonance impossible to recreate by the application of any other social science methodology.  This series aims to highlight the best, most innovative ethnographic work available from both new and established scholars.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Criminology