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Parental Incarceration and the Family

Parental Incarceration and the Family: Psychological and Social Effects of Imprisonment on Children, Parents, and Caregivers

Joyce A. Arditti
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: NYU Press
Pages: 258
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  • Book Info
    Parental Incarceration and the Family
    Book Description:

    Winner of the 2014 Outstanding Book Award presented by the Academy of Criminal Justice SciencesOver 2% of U.S.children under the age of 18more than 1,700,000 childrenhave a parent in prison. These children experience very real disadvantages when compared to their peers: they tend to experience lower levels of educational success, social exclusion, and even a higher likelihood of their own future incarceration. Meanwhile, their new caregivers have to adjust to their new responsibilities as their lives change overnight, and the incarcerated parents are cut off from their childrens development.Parental Incarceration and the Familybrings a family perspective to our understanding of what it means to have so many of our nations parents in prison. Drawing from the fields most recent research and the authors own fieldwork, Joyce Ardittioffers an in-depth look at how incarceration affects entire families: offender parents, children, and care-givers. Through the use of exemplars, anecdotes, and reflections, Joyce Arditti puts a human face on the mass of humanity behind bars, as well as those family members who are affected by a parents imprisonment. In focusing on offenders as parents, a radically different social policy agenda emergesone that calls for real reform and that responds to the collective vulnerabilities of the incarcerated and their kin.

    eISBN: 978-0-8147-0513-1
    Subjects: Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 Introduction: A Framework for Understanding Parental Incarceration
    (pp. 1-22)

    It is a risk to start a book on parental incarceration with a personal reflection from field notes compiled during a study of the impact of parental incarceration on families. The notes reflect the visceral experience ofbeing thereand the transformative potential of fieldwork in corrections settings (Arditti, Joest, Lambert-Shute, & Walker, 2010). In doing so I acknowledge the proverbial elephant in the room: human suffering. Prisons and jail are not happy places. Criminologists James Austin and John Irwin (2001) provide a succinct description of the prison experience today:

    Convicted primarily of property and drug crimes, 1.3 million prisoners...

  5. 2 Context and Processes Associated with Incarcerated Parenting
    (pp. 23-43)

    Mary’s story is a sad but all too common one for parents who are in prison. Her life reflects key themes in terms of the context of parental incarceration and the processes that bear on parenting from prison. Mary comes from a background of cumulative disadvantage, in terms of growing up on the streets, poor parenting from her family of origin, and a history of drug use and mental illness. Confinement far from home and her estranged relationship with her mother and stepfather are primary barriers in her ability to sustain her connection to her young son. Mary’s poor self-esteem...

  6. 3 Maternal Incarceration
    (pp. 44-69)

    Unprecedented numbers of women are receiving incarcerative sentencing for drug-related offenses, and Allison represents a typical woman in the system. Allison’s family background, involvement in the juvenile justice system, and drug use all contributed to the odds of her imprisonment as an adult. Women like Allison now represent the fastest-growing segment of the imprisoned population. Since the majority of female prisoners are mothers, the steep rise in the incarceration of women has been estimated to impact more than a million American children. Female prisoners not only are more likely than men to report having multiple children but also are more...

  7. 4 Paternal Incarceration
    (pp. 70-94)

    Both Charlie’s and Merle’s stories highlight contextual and processual concepts that are critical to understanding the implications of incarceration for fathers. Based on a review of the empirical literature, we can identify four areas of concern, all of which are reflected in Charlie’s and Merle’s stories:

    Incarcerated fatherhood and paternal identity: the high price of feeling helpless

    Father involvement: constraints and efforts to father behind walls

    Pivotal challenges: contact and coparenting

    Father-child ties and reentry

    Because of their incarceration, Charlie and Merle are relatively helpless in terms of staying in contact with their children. Like most men in their situation,...

  8. 5 The Effects of Incarceration on Families and Children
    (pp. 95-139)

    It is busy on the “Prison Talk”¹ website today. There are numerous postings by children with incarcerated fathers or mothers, parents with incarcerated children, husbands with incarcerated wives, women who share children with incarcerated men, and incarcerated parents themselves. Thousands and thousands of postings speak to the experience of the offender, as well as how incarceration affects those family members closest to the offender. To understand the implications of parental incarceration, one only has to read the stories of those who are most affected. Men, women, grandparents, and children all post on the various forums dedicated to supporting the families...

  9. 6 Conclusion: Practice and Policy Implications of a Family Perspective on Parental Incarceration
    (pp. 140-183)

    Selene’s case is a fictional dramatization; however, the organization that reached out to her is real. The “WCE” is in reality the Center for Young Women’s Development (CYWD) in San Francisco, one of the first nonprofits in the United States run and led entirely by young women. The CYWD is designed to target the most marginalized young women in the street economies and justice system and delivers intensive wraparound services with multiple components such as reading education, job readiness training, peer-to-peer mentoring, critical thinking, and political education. Why does this organization work? First and foremost, participants in the program are...

  10. Appendix
    (pp. 184-204)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 205-208)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 209-236)
  13. Index
    (pp. 237-248)
  14. About the Author
    (pp. 249-249)