Incarcerating Motherhood : The Enduring Harms of First Short Periods of Imprisonment on Mothers book cover
1st Edition

Incarcerating Motherhood
The Enduring Harms of First Short Periods of Imprisonment on Mothers

ISBN 9780367660642
Published September 30, 2020 by Routledge
266 Pages

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Book Description

Incarcerating Motherhood explores how initial short period in prisons can negatively impact mothers and their children. We have much yet to understand about the enduring harms caused by first time incarceration, especially for minimal time periods and for mothers with dependent children. With large numbers of female prisoners currently incarcerated for short periods in England and Wales (either on short sentences or remand), many of whom are primary caregivers, this book asks: what kind of impact does this imprisonment has on both parent and child in the long term?

Based on original research, the experiences of sixteen mothers are presented to voice the material, physical and emotional consequences of short-term imprisonment. The book explores to what extent these mothers lose their sense of identity in a short space of time, whether this continues to affect them post-custody, and what level of support they are provided during and post-custody. This book also explores what bearing the initial separation and the care provided during the mother’s absence will have on their children’s lives, as well as whether the affects of imprisonment on the mother also increase the vulnerability of her children.

Incarcerating Motherhood provides a platform for readers to hear how a ‘short sharp shock’ can cause enduring harms to an already vulnerable group in society and how even short-term imprisonment have long-lasting and multi-dimensional consequences.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements; Part 1: Providing the Context; Chapter 1: Why Women? Why Mothers?; Chapter 2: Problematic Use of Short Periods of Incarceration; Chapter 3: Giving the Unheard a Voice; Chapter 4: Maternal Pains of Imprisonment; Part 2: Material Consequences; Chapter 5: Finances; Chapter 6: Education and Employment; Chapter 7: Housing; Part 3: Consequences to Health and Wellbeing; Chapter 8: Physical Health; Chapter 9: Addictions; Chapter 10: Psychological Harm; Part 4: Forgotten Victims of Crime; Chapter 11: Being Mothered From a Distance; Chapter 12: Pre-Existing Disadvantages; Chapter 13: Intensifying or Minimising Harm; Chapter 14: Conclusions and Recommendations; References; Index

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Isla Masson is a Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Leicester. Her research interests predominately lie in incarceration, female offending and restorative justice. She previously co led a project with Restorative Justice Council funded by the Barrow Cadbury Trust, she currently volunteers with the Independent Monitoring Board at HMP Onley, co-founded the Women, Families, Crime and Justice Network, and has helped created a social enterprise at HMP Ryehill.


Drawing on in-depth interviews with mothers who experienced separation from their children through short periods in custody, this book walks the reader through a catalogue of enduring harms which these women faced as a result of incarceration. The book is divided into four parts, each providing a thorough description of the gendered pains of imprisonment through rich insights into the challenges these women faced in their everyday lives; with housing, employment, health, finances and relationships with their dependent children. The overarching argument that imprisonment has long-lasting consequences for women is woven throughout this cleverly crafted book, and so reader can opt to read the book in its entirety, or the parts as standalone sections.

The writing is accessible and engaging, and would benefit a student new to the study of criminology or the social sciences, and it is also a book for the seasoned practitioner and experienced academic. Most of all this book should be read by politicians and their policy advisors as it sheds light on the critical issues which short periods of custody inflict on a vulnerable population of women with dependent children. The recommendations towards the end of this book provide tangible ways to respond to the current failings in the criminal justice system, and should be given priority immediately, and during this time of potential change which stem from the promises published in the Female Offender Strategy (Ministry of Justice, 2018).

- Dr Natalie Booth, Lecturer in Criminology at De Montfort University, Leicester